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

Conflicts Engulf Christians in Mideast

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Chinese Americans: Don’t Call Us 'Model Minority'

Label points to collective achievement, but some say it triggers resentment, unrealistic expectations More

Iran Bolsters Phone, Internet Surveillance

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Polish Ghetto

When the Nazi army moved into the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid