WASHINGTON – Senators and Representatives from both parties worked quickly Thursday evening to fix an unexpected problem brought on by the budget sequester- namely that left alone the sequester would force cuts in government programs that would inconvenience the politicians themselves.
“When my Chief of Staff explained how this whole sequester thing was delaying flights carrying people who weren’t poor, sick, or in any way a minority, I said now hold on a minute,” explained Republican Policy Committee Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming. “It was never our intention to pass a law that would inconvenience rich white people. We have to do something!”
Reaction was swift and decisive. By unanimous consent- meaning no one from either party objected- the Senate passed the Reducing Flight Delays Act of 2013, giving the Federal Aviation Administration the authority to spend up to $253 million already budgeted to the department, but not allocated to any specific program, to keep FAA employees on the job and reduce flight delays.
On Friday, the House passed identical legislation by a vote of 361-41. President Obama was expected to sign the new law immediately, and politicians from both parties expressed gratitude to The President for his quick action, especially those hoping to get a jump on the upcoming week-long congressional recess by flying out of Washington on Friday.
“For too long has America been crushed under the burden of these flight delays,” said Representative Ami Bera (D-CA). “Particularly flight delays out of both Dulles and Ronald Reagan National Airport.”
“I gotta say, generally I hate everything Obama puts his pen to, but this time he got it right,” agreed Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ). “Just because we’re forcing an ill-advised policy of fiscal austerity on the country in hopes of destroying the economy and thereby convincing everyone that Obama’s a horrible President doesn’t mean we should have to sit on that damn tarmac for a couple of hours like everybody else.”
In addition to causing flight delays, the automatic spending cuts called for by the budget sequester are expected to cost the jobs of more than 7,200 special needs teachers and aides, cut funding for over 2,700 schools with large numbers of disadvantaged children, furlough over 36,500 Bureau of Prisons staff resulting in partial lockdowns and endangering over 218,000 inmates, result in nearly 125,000 individuals and families currently in the Housing Choice Voucher program to their benefits and become homeless, cut Head Start programs for 70,000 children, and reduce the hours and services provided at 398 national parks, 561 refuges, and over 258 public land units.
While to date there are no plans to pass legislation addressing these or nearly any other outcome of the sequester, that doesn’t mean Congress is done.
“We’re looking at providing funding to reopen tours of the White House,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. “If only for serious congressional campaign contributors.”