By JOSH LEDERMAN, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama chided lawmakers Saturday over their fix for widespread flight delays, deeming it an irresponsible way to govern even as he prepared to sign the legislation they hurriedly pushed through Congress.
Wary of letting Republicans set a precedent he might later regret, Obama dubbed the bipartisan bill to end furloughs of air traffic controllers a "Band-Aid" and a quick fix, rather than a lasting solution to this year's $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts known as the sequester. The cuts have affected all federal agencies, and some cuts were undone. But flight delays last week left thousands of travelers frustrated and furious and Congress feeling pressured to respond.
"Republicans claimed victory when the sequester first took effect, and now they've decided it was a bad idea all along," Obama said, singling out the GOP even though the bill passed with overwhelming Democratic support in both chambers.
He scolded lawmakers for helping the Federal Aviation Administration while doing nothing to replace other cuts that he said harm federal employees, unemployed workers and preschoolers in Head Start.
"Maybe because they fly home each weekend, the members of Congress who insisted these cuts take hold finally realized that they actually apply to them, too," Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address released Saturday.
Rushed through Congress with remarkable speed, the bill marked a shift for Democrats, who had hoped the impact of the cuts would increase pressure on Republicans to reverse the sequester. Republicans, meanwhile, have rejected Obama's proposal to replace the across-the-board cuts with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases.
"There are some in the Obama administration who thought inflicting pain on the public would give the president more leverage to avoid making necessary spending cuts, and to impose more tax hikes on the American people," said Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania in the Republican address.
He argued that the FAA could have averted the flight delays on its own by cutting costs elsewhere and rejiggering work schedules — but intentionally chose not to do so.
The bill signed by Obama would let the FAA use up to $253 million from an airport improvement program and other accounts to halt the furloughs through the Sept. 30 end of the government's fiscal year.
Faced with the prospect that emboldened Republicans will push to selectively undo other painful effects of the cuts, the White House said Friday that a piecemeal approach would be impractical, but wouldn't definitely rule out signing other fixes.
Obama address: www.whitehouse.gov
GOP address: www.youtube.com/HouseConference
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