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Mr. HONDA. Mr. Speaker, I regret that I am unable to be in Washington, DC today to cast a vote on H.R. 1765, The Reducing Flight Delays Act.
When House Republicans refused to compromise on tax and spending issues and raising the statutory debt limit, the Budget Control Act of 2011 was enacted in order to avert a fiscal crisis. The BCA provided for automatic reductions to most federal discretionary spending, referred to as ``sequestration,'' if no agreement on deficit reduction could be reached. Policy analysts, economic experts and the American people agreed that the automatic spending cuts would be so damaging, and were such bad policy, that Congress would be compelled to act to avoid them. I did not believe that these cuts were the right course of action, and so I voted against the BCA.
Unfortunately (but predictably), Congress was unable to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan, and sequestration went into effect on March 1, 2013. As we are now experiencing, sequestration requires agencies to reduce non-defense discretionary spending by 5.3 percent in Fiscal Year 2013. It does not provide any guidance on how each agency should go about implementing these cuts, it simply reduces spending across the board, impacting all federal programs.
On March 22, 2013, after carefully weighing competing national security interests, public safety concerns, impacts on interstate transportation, communication, banking and financial networks, and the status of the most critical diversionary airports, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced it would close 149 Federal Contract Tower program towers by June 15, 2013. The FAA has also begun to implement a series of furloughs of all of its employees, including its 15,000 air traffic controllers, which has resulted in flight delays nationwide.
As someone who flies across the Continental United States twice each week, I share the frustrations and concerns that many Americans have about the flight delays due to furloughs and the closure of these towers. The nation's air traffic control system is essential for public safety, business, and the regulation of national air traffic, and I support this legislative effort to ensure that it is able to function normally.
But the measure the House is voting on today is just applying an inadequate Band-Aid to the gaping wound that sequestration has inflicted on our nation. The flight delays due to furloughs and closure of contract towers are some of the first highly visible impacts of sequestration, but they highlight the fact that the federal government performs many essential services that Americans depend on, and enacting indiscriminate cuts to federal funding undoubtedly has a negative impact on the government's ability to provide those services.
I remain committed to working with my colleagues in Congress and across the government to protect Americans from the worst impacts of sequestration and to undo it altogether.
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