(CNN) - Forced government-wide spending cuts reduced staffing of air traffic controllers and slowed the aviation system this week, resulting in flight delays for travelers. But congressional intervention permitting new budget flexibility that allows them to return to work has, for the moment, reignited fierce political debate over spending and taxes.
President Barack Obama and some Capitol Hill Democrats complained that Washington was now unwisely picking winners and losers after congressional inaction on deficit reduction earlier this year triggered $85 billion in government-wide spending cuts.
In his weekly address on Saturday, Obama suggested lawmakers were more concerned with air controllers than with other programs, like Head Start and federal medical research,
that remain fully bound by the strict terms of the cuts that took effect in March.
"This week, the sequester hurt travelers, who were stuck for hours in airports and on planes, and rightly frustrated by it," Obama said, using Washington jargon for the mandatory spending cuts.
"And, maybe because they fly home each weekend, the Members of Congress who insisted these cuts take hold finally realized that they actually apply to them too," Obama said.
Under sequester, FAA was forced to find $600 million in cuts to its budget between March and next September 30, the end of the fiscal year.
Part of that austerity, the agency insisted, required employee furloughs that would apply to its 15,000-member controller work force.
The furloughs began to hit on Sunday and resulted in more than 3,000 flight delays, officials said.
Vocal and politically powerful aviation interests argued that the cuts affecting their industry would hurt business, travelers and cost jobs. Hundreds of millions of people fly on U.S. airlines annually.
Congress apparently listened.
Obama argued on Saturday that the FAA budget changes amounted to only a "temporary fix" that would only forestall more significant inconveniences for Americans.
"These cuts are scheduled to keep falling across other parts of the government that provide vital services for the American people," he said. "And we can't just keep putting Band-Aids on every cut. It's not a responsible way to govern. There is only one way to truly fix the sequester: by replacing it before it causes further damage."
Rep. Bill Schuster, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, agreed in the GOP weekly address that the automatic spending cuts needed to be replaced.
But he said the delays caused by the FAA staffing shortages were an unnecessary – and politically motivated – move to force Congress into agreeing to higher taxes.
The agency could have found other ways to cut its budget aside from staffing reductions, he said.
"They could have taken into account air traffic patterns, and made sure controllers would be in place where they were most needed," Schuster argued. "Or they could have reached out to Congress and the airlines to have a plan in place ahead of time."
"Instead, the FAA imposed blanket across-the-board furloughs, including air traffic controllers, causing these extensive delays," he continued. "Why? Because there are some in the Obama administration who thought inflicting pain on the public would give the president more leverage to avoid making necessary spending cuts, and to impose more tax hikes on the American people."
The dem learned they cant push us around anymore we r standing up to the bullies
Poor congressmen. Having to suffer like the common person that travels by plane. Maybe they should stay in Washington and actually do something. On second thought. Go home, but don't come back. Sure glad I am afraid to fly.
Only Republicans can force spending cuts, then complain about the resulting spending cuts. Excuse me, it was a across-the-board spending cut that you passed, which did not exempt air traffic controllers. This is from the same Congress that cut funding for embassy security, then complained that the Obama Administration did not provide enough embassy security. Do you remember that before Bush started cutting taxes, the government actually had a surplus?
By all means let's not allow any of the Republican's mindless sequester to hinder our Congressmen when they're going on vacation – again. All of the families of other federal workers will lose 20% of their pay, and never get it returned, but we don't want those slimy politicians to wait in line...
Congress what about the children, the poor, and the elderly do they matter.
WHAT A TANGLED WEB WE WEAVE, WHEN FIRST WE PRACTICE TO DECEIVE.
Well Mr. Prez, you CAN Veto the bill. Go ahead, I dare you! You Liberal's want the Government to run everything just like they did in the former Soviet Union. That was a job even Superman couldn't do. Now I know we are just a bunch of idiots Mr. Prez, but bare with us, we are doing the best we can.
Congress, especially republicans only act when it affects them or their buddies, They could care less about head start for children or meals on wheels for the elderly
It has always been Obama and the Democrats SEQUESTER, they developed it and promoted it, now they cry foul and blame the Republicans. Each department involved in the sequester could have/ but didn't use common sense to use , unused and wasteful money to stop the hurt on the American People. Pay back is comes to the Democrats in the form of voters rights of the voting booth, vote the Democrats out/ those who haven't left on their own!
Spar? Yeah, right... That's a good one. More like cave again to Republicans. Heaven forbid you actually mean what you say Mr. President...
We all think first before we act. These congressmen were warned first not to vote for the sequester, they ignored the warning and to make the matter worse, Fox News was trumpeting it that nothing has happened it was only a scare tactic. It was not. Face it dear congressmen/men like any other poor people are doing now.
"Each department involved in the sequester could have/ but didn't use common sense to use , unused and wasteful money to stop the hurt on the American People."
If you had a clue as to what "across the board" meant, then you would know that ONLY Congress could divert the millions from the Aid to Airport funds and redirect it to air controller spending. That is what this bill does.
Try not to show what a moron you are on an international blog, it is embarrassing to us "American people" with an I.Q. higher than a warm radish!
The President and the Democrats on the Hill need to stop whining. Of COURSE part of the role of government is to pick winners and losers (those who benefit and those who don't from public policy and government spending). We middle class Americans depend on YOU, Mr. Obama, Ms. Pelosi, and Mr. Reid, to be the voice of those who don't typically have a voice in Washington. Stop standing on the sidelines while the Republicans pick off political wins by placating to the politically connected and financially well off.
So Ray...you think that Southerners would do a better job by returning us back to antebellum days? Heaven help us all!
Sure, jpmichigan. Obama suggested the idea as a poison pill so that both sides will want to negotiate a better solution. Republicans took the idea, passed it, and claimed that they got 98% of what they wanted. By your logic, Republicans should blame Republicans for Obamacare, since it was originally a Republican idea. The fact that Obama took the idea and passed it should not matter. It was still a Republican idea.