Congress approves bill to end airport delays


Congress has easily approved legislation ending furloughs of air traffic controllers that have delayed hundreds of flights daily.

The House approved the measure Friday on a 361-41 vote, one day after the Senate agreed to the bill. The action came with lawmakers streaming toward the doors for a week-long spring recess.

The Federal Aviation Administration has furloughed the controllers as part of the government-wide, $85 billion spending cuts called the sequester.

Republicans are accusing the Obama administration of using the controller furloughs to put political pressure on Congress to roll back all the cuts. Airline delays have infuriated travelers and caused headaches for lawmakers. Democrats largely went along with the bill but said all the cuts should be lifted.

The bill shifts $253 million set aside for airport improvements and other projects to pay air traffic controllers who were being forced to take an unpaid day off every other week.

The furloughs were causing three-hour waits at airports across the country.

"The FAA has the flexibility without passing a law to move money within that organization," said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA).

Since Sunday, airports have been short about 1,500 controllers a day.

"To treat O'Hare airport with 8,000 flights a day in the exact same fashion that Waterloo, Iowa with 80 flights a day is treated, is ridiculous," said Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL).

Airports had to slow down takeoffs and landings so controllers on duty could manage flights safely. Passengers had to wait.

"It was late and my flight was missed - so we have to stay overnight and they're not going to pay for a hotel or anything like that," said one passenger.

The White House calls the deal good news, but a temporary fix.

"More and more consequences of the sequester will pop up after this and will create momentum as we get closer to that debt ceiling vote in August," said John Harwood, CNBC chief Washington correspondent.

"We're just fooling ourselves if we think that we're doing ourselves or the American people any favors by not finding a real solution," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).