The House convenes Tuesday for the first time since the manhunt for the Boston Marathon bombing suspects ended and immigration hearings began, so those issues would be expected to dominate the afternoon glut of “one minutes” from those eager to be heard on the stories of the day.
Instead, it’s a good bet many lawmakers will have something else they want to talk about: the sequester, a topic that was put to rest exactly four weeks ago.
That was when President Barack Obama signed legislation dictating agency budget levels for the rest of fiscal 2013, which locked down those highly controversial and relatively indiscriminatory reductions in discretionary spending until the end of September. Faced with no alternative to a government shutdown, the measure won the grudging votes of 73 senators and 318 House members, and they’ve spent the past month with fingers crossed that the public won’t feel pained by the pinch.
But then came Monday, the first weekday of sequester-motivated furloughs for air traffic controllers. Hundreds of thousands of travelers were delayed by as much as three hours, mainly because of understaffing at major hubs and regional control towers. About 1,500 controllers were ordered to take the day off without pay, requiring wider spacing of planes getting ready to land or take off.
All 15,000 controllers have been told to get ready for 11 such furlough days this spring and summer, a staffing cut of about 10 percent. It’s still only enough to save $200 million, less than one-third of the $637 million the Federal Aviation Administration needs to excise by the fall.
The delays were impossible for many members of Congress to ignore, of course, because those returning from weekends in their home states were part of the annoyed hordes slowed on their returns to D.C.-area airports. And, because of furloughs at the Transportation Security Administration, many members also began their trips with extra-long lines at security checkpoints.
So some of the angriest rhetoric out of Washington will come from a particularly volatile sort of politician, one whose schedule has been disrupted and creature comforts rattled by inconveniences they’ll want to blame on others but know they’ve had a hand in creating.
And all the agita about air traffic controllers is just the latest in a lengthening roster of ripped-from-the-headlines bipartisan lawmaker concerns that might be titled, “Sequestration and Its Discontents.”
(for more, please visit our friends at Roll Call)
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