Despite being told over and over that the March 1 automatic spending cuts (i.e. “sequester”) would lead to the end of civilization as we know it, the federal government is still here and the country’s still functioning.
Perhaps that's why sequester hand-wringers and their allies in the press have been working so hard to tie even the slightest inconvenience to the government budget cuts – it’s a save face effort.
Consider the following: East Coast airports on Monday experienced minor delays due to high winds and heavy traffic. Okay, nothing new here or out of the ordinary.
So what's the problem?
Well, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the delays are much more serious than they sound and it's all because of sequester.
“In airports across the country, millions of Americans will get their first taste of the pain of sequestration,” said Sen. Reid. “But many Americans have been feeling that pain for weeks. We cannot and we should not only address the FAA cuts. We cannot ignore the sequester’s overall effect on Americans.”
Wait a minute. Let's dig into Sen. Reid's FAA claim.
“[N]ot only does the FAA have enough money to pay all their scheduled on-duty air traffic controllers,” the Washington Examiner’s Conn Carroll writes, “even after the sequester they actually have more money [than] they requested for 2013.”
He lays out a pretty solid argument:
President Obama’s 2013 FAA Budget Request asked for just $15.172 billion. But Congress gave them an extra $1.1 billion for the Grants-in-Aid for Airports program, bringing their total 2013 funding to $16.668 billion. Then the sequester lopped off $669 million in FAA funding, leaving them with $15.999 billion.
“But that $15.999 billion is more money than they originally asked for to run the entire agency! In other words, if Obama wanted to, he could re-purpose the Grants-in-Aid money he never wanted, and use it to keep 100 percent of the air traffic controllers on-duty,” Carroll explains.
“If Obama believes he does not have the discretion to do this, he could easily ask Congress for it. The Republicans would gladly give it to him,” he adds.
But many pundits believe the president and his allies have no intention of striking a deal with Republicans. After all, they explain, that would undermine the entire purpose of sequestration (i.e. making life a living hell for Republicans).
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