WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a Sen. Mark Udall-led bill Thursday night to avoid more furloughs of essential Federal Aviation Administration employees as a result of automatic, across-the-board federal budget cuts that began March 1.
The bill aims to alleviate the pains felt in air-traffic control towers and terminals alike. FAA furloughs began in full force this week, and they left many airports with delays stemming from reduced staffing.
“We just had a really big win here in Washington for travelers all across our country,” Udall, D-Colo., told reporters Thursday night after the bill’s passage.
The Reducing Flight Delays Act, introduced earlier Thursday, grants the secretary of transportation the flexibility to move as much as $253 million from other parts of the department’s budget to the Federal Aviation Administration. It also includes congressional oversight through the Senate and House Appropriations committees.
The furloughs come from the budget cuts known as the sequestration, which are mandatory cuts that will slash $85 billion from the federal budget this fiscal year.
“We just can’t let these blunt cuts cripple travel,” Udall said, calling the air-travel issues and flight delays a drag on the resurging economy.
Udall and his co-sponsor Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, introduced legislation in early March to give federal agencies and departments more flexibility in implementing the sequester cuts.
That bill could have avoided problems such as these aviation delays, Udall said.
Stefanie Dazio is a student at American University in Washington, D.C., and an intern for The Durango Herald. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.