News / USA

Rush to Help Airlines, Travelers Could Crack Open US Budget Door

Passengers with their baggage move through the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), California, April 24, 2013.
Passengers with their baggage move through the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), California, April 24, 2013.
Reuters
Congress got rid of a headache on Friday when it rescued the flying public from flight delays caused by its budget cutting. But in the view of many U.S. lawmakers, the pain is just about to begin.

Members of Congress and groups representing people hit by across-the-board budget cuts, ranging from cancer patients to welfare recipients, say the quick action on air traffic control staffing underscored the importance of being visible to millions of Americans.

"What are we going to do, every time there's a fire we're going to put it out by moving some funds around? That's a shell game," said Representative Gerald Connolly, a Democrat from northern Virginia.

"I'm going to predict that there's going to be more weeping and gnashing of teeth, as sequestration sets in and we're going to continue to approach this on a piecemeal basis," he said.

Next in line for individual funding relief will be advocates for national parks, low-income housing, AIDS funding, meals on wheels and Community Development Block Grants, Connolly said, adding that budget cuts for these and other safety-net services will be felt severely by local communities.

Representatives for some of these other programs said it was the television images of lines in airports and the interviews with angry passengers that led to action, combined with the lobbying power of the travel industry.

"It means we worry about who's going to scream the loudest now," said Chris Hansen, president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, which has been lobbying against cuts in federal funding of medical research.

A heavy dose of lobbying from the airline and travel industry preceded the legislation enacted Friday, which permitted the Federal Aviation Administration to move money to avoid the furloughs of air traffic controllers that were causing the delays.

Sequestration - the $109 billion in automatic across-the-board budget cuts enacted by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama - formally took effect in March and barring Congressional action to replace it may continue for a decade.

Some programs won relief from Congress in March, notably the meat and poultry industry, which fought successfully to prevent furloughs of U.S. Department of Agriculture meat inspectors.

But because the furloughs in other programs, such as the FAA, were not immediately implemented, the impact was slow to build.

Travel lobby

   
The travel industry began to accelerate its lobbying effort after it learned early last week from the FAA that as many as 6,700 flights per day could be delayed, potentially reducing capacity at major airports by 30 to 40 percent.

Nicholas Calio, president of Airlines for America, or A4A, the main airlines industry group, worked the phones throughout the week, said Jean Medina, senior vice president for communications at A4A.

"He certainly was in very close contact with a lot of people to make sure they understood what needed to happen," she said.

Its first course of action was to ask the administration for a 30-day delay.

When that was denied, the industry group began focusing on a legislative fix that would clear both houses with bipartisan support and be signed into law by Obama.

US Airways Chief Executive Doug Parker, who would head the world's largest airline if his carrier's merger with AMR Corp's American Airlines is approved, said he spent the past week making calls to government officials in his airline's hub markets to express concern about the furloughs.

"What I know is we're doing great disservice to the flying public and to the citizens of the United States and we need for this to get resolved," Parker told Reuters from Arizona earlier this week.

The non-profit U.S. Travel Association said it mounted its own "sequester offensive" in response to the furloughs and began a consumer texting campaign that connected travelers who had been delayed at airports to members of Congress.

The association also asked industry workers to contact their representatives in Congress to explain that the travel delays put their jobs at risk.

"We were in frequent contact with Congress urging them to solve this problem as soon as possible," Erik Hansen, director of domestic policy at the U.S. Travel Association, said on Friday.  "We were able to generate hundreds of calls and emails to Congress and we're hoping that helped to move the ball forward," Hansen said.

Visibility

Airlines for America reported about $6.3 million in lobbying expenses in 2012 according to the Center for Responsive Politics; the U.S. Travel Association spent about $1.7 million; US Airways and Delta about $2.8 million each.

While other interest groups have a lobbying presence in the national capital, they are hard pressed to match the visibility of air travel.

Compared to "longer lines at airports," said Cynthia Pellegrini, a vice president at the March of Dimes, which raises funds to improve the health of mothers and babies, "you can't see that a child's belly is emptier because her family couldn't get food assistance."

"We are not as well-heeled as the travel industry," said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, an alliance of social welfare organizations. "But I think as more people learn of this appalling choice,'' that Congress made on Friday, ``they will get as mad as I am."

Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, home to a major Delta Air Lines hub in Minneapolis, was among the members backing an FAA budget fix on Thursday when the Senate passed it.

She called it a "practical, pragmatic answer to an immediate problem," but acknowledged that it does nothing to get Congress closer to fixing the problems caused by sequestration. More effects of the cuts, demonstrated dramatically to the public, could do that, she added.

She may not have long to wait. Organizations that have been more quietly protesting the budget cuts were rethinking their strategy on Friday in the wake of Congress' action.

"It is inexplicable why proven and effective Meals on Wheels programs get overlooked from exemption from the sequester when both the business and social case exists,'' said Ellie Hollander, President and CEO of Meals on Wheels Association of America.

"I guess that's because we need to be a different kind of squeaky wheel.''

You May Like

Americans Celebrate Thanksgiving With Feasts, Festivities

Feasts centering on turkeys with an array of traditional sides and desserts are part of the holiday's traditions, which falls on the fourth Thursday in November More

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

With two years left in term, analysts say, president has less to lose by taking conversation on race further More

Video Italian Espresso Expands Into Space

When Italian astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti headed for the ISS, her countrymen worried how she would survive six months drinking only instant coffee More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Paradei
X
Anush Avetisyan
November 26, 2014 10:57 PM
Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video US Community Kicks Off Thanksgiving With Parade

Thursday is Thanksgiving in the United States, a holiday whose roots go back to the country's earliest days as a British colony. One way Americans celebrate the occasion is with parades. Anush Avetisyan takes us to one such event on the day before Thanksgiving near Washington, where a community's diversity is on display. Joy Wagner narrates
Video

Video For Obama, Ferguson Violence is a Personal Issue

Throughout the crisis in Ferguson, Missouri, President Barack Obama has urged calm, restraint and respect for the rule of law. But the events in Ferguson have prompted him to call — more openly than he has before — for profound changes to end the racism and distrust that he believes still exists between whites and blacks in the United States. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Online Magazine Gets Kids Discussing Big Questions

Teen culture in America is often criticized for being superficial. But an online magazine has been encouraging some teenagers to explore deeper issues, and rewarding their efforts. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky went to this year’s Kidspirit awards ceremony in New York.
Video

Video Aung San Suu Kyi: Myanmar Opposition to Keep Pushing for Constitutional Change

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi says she and her supporters will continue pushing to amend a constitutional clause that bars her from running for president next year. VOA's Than Lwin Htun reports from the capital Naypyitaw in this report narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Mali Attempts to Shut Down Ebola Transmission Chain

Senegal and Nigeria were able to stop small Ebola outbreaks by closely monitoring those who had contact with the sick person and quickly isolating anyone with symptoms. Mali is now scrambling to do the same. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Mali on what the country is doing to shut down the chain of transmission.
Video

Video Ukraine Marks Anniversary of Deadly 1930s Famine

During a commemoration for millions who died of starvation in Ukraine in the early 1930s, President Petro Poroshenko lashed out at Soviet-era totalitarianism for causing the deaths and accused today’s Russian-backed rebels in the east of using similar tactics. VOA’s Daniel Shearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests at a Crossroads

New public opinion polls in Hong Kong indicate declining support for pro-democracy demonstrations after weeks of street protests. VOA’s Bill Ide in Guangzhou and Pros Laput in Hong Kong spoke with protesters and observers about whether demonstrators have been too aggressive in pushing for change.
Video

Video US Immigration Relief Imminent for Mixed-Status Families

Tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants in the Washington, D.C., area may benefit from a controversial presidential order announced this week. It's not a path to citizenship, as some activists hoped. But it will allow more immigrants who arrived as children or who have citizen children, to avoid deportation and work legally. VOA's Victoria Macchi talks with one young man who benefited from an earlier presidential order, and whose parents may now benefit after years of living in fear.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid