Congress on Target With Furlough Vote
April 30, 2013
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  • The eleventh hour came and went last week, and there was no filibuster in Washington, D.C., no angry standoff, and no threats of a government shutdown.

    Instead, Democratic and Republican lawmakers came together to pass a common sense bill that saves travelers time and aircraft workers money.

    On Friday, Congress voted 361-41 to pass the Reducing Flight Delays Act, effectively ending the Federal Aviation Administration’s furlough program, which forced more than 25,000 airline workers to take unpaid vacation time.

    The proposal, which drew support from all four members of New Hampshire’s Congressional delegation, freed up as much as $253 million within the federal aviation budget to allow more than 15,000 air-traffic controllers, among others, to return to full-time work.

    It potentially could send more money to the Nashua airport’s control tower, which is slated to close in the coming months, and it will almost certainly bring to an end the epidemic of flight delays that crossed the country last week.

    According to FAA counts, more than 3,000 flights were delayed due to the furloughs, which took effect April 21.

    Still, as they cast their votes, many lawmakers pointed fingers and held their noses, questioning why the legislation focused solely on the FAA furloughs without addressing other, even more vital budget cuts.

    That is an appropriate and important question.

    The federal sequestration cuts, which forced the furloughs in the first place, continue to threaten hundreds of essential education, health and social service programs, among others, at the local, state and federal level.

    But, as aviation workers return to work, critics shouldn’t condemn Congress for taking action. Rather, they should question why Congress can’t act so cooperatively and decisively more often.

    In Washington, this should be the rule, not the exception.