WASHINGTON — Republican lawmakers on Tuesday accused the Obama administration of a creating a “phony and contrived” crisis as travelers across the country face delays due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s furlough of air traffic controllers.
“It smells,” South Dakota Sen. John Thune told reporters in the Capitol on Tuesday. “It smells of politics.”
The FAA implemented furloughs of its air traffic controllers on Sunday, citing the recent automatic budget cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect earlier this year. Republicans accuse the administration of cutting things that would inconvenience average Americans in order to portray the cuts as worse than they really are.
“You can only conclude — just like the shutting down of the White House tours during Spring Break — it’s meant to impact the most negative way possible on the air traveling public,” Texas Sen. John Cornyn said.
Cornyn called the cuts “phony and contrived.”
Likewise, Maine Sen. Susan Collins called it “a manufactured crisis.”
“There are many options that the FAA itself and the Department of Transportation as a whole has to avoid this impact — this disastrous impact — on the traveling public,” she said.
Thune called the cuts “unnecessary,” and listed other areas the agency could cut that wouldn’t affect air controllers, such as its $541 million yearly budget for consulting contracts, $179 million budget for travel expenses, and $134 million budget for office supplies.
“You would think that there would be more priority items that they could choose to cut,” he said.
In a statement Tuesday, the FAA said that more than 1,200 delays in the system were caused by the furlough on April 22 alone.
“Travelers can expect to see a wide range of delays that will change throughout the day depending on staffing and weather-related issues,” the agency said.