WASHINGTON -- Under pressure, the White House signaled yesterday it might accept legislation eliminating Federal Aviation Administration furloughs blamed for lengthy flight delays, while retaining the rest of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts.
The disclosure came as sentiment grew among Senate Democrats as well as Republicans for legislation to ease the impact of the cuts on the FAA, possibly by loosening restrictions on agency spending. Senior members of the Senate Commerce Committee met with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and FAA Administrator Michael Huerta to consider possible ways to eliminate the delays.
According to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, there were 5,800 flight delays across the country for the three-day period beginning Sunday, when the furloughs took effect. Some were caused by weather. The union said that compares with 2,500 delays for the same period a year ago.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said that if Congress "wants to address specifically the problems caused by the sequester with the FAA, we would be open to looking at that."
Officials said the FAA furloughs will save slightly more than $200 million through Sept. 30. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other top Democrats have consistently expressed opposition to piecemeal legislation aimed at easing the impact of the spending cuts. But support for that view among Senate Democrats has been eroding.