Mr. McCONNELL. Mr. President, as a result of the administration's poor planning and, I would argue, political motives, thousands of people were stuck on tarmacs over the last few days. The FAA's mismanagement of this issue is the source of bipartisan frustration. Our goal shouldn't be to score political points on the backs of weary travelers, it should be to fix the problem.
Look, the Obama administration knew about the sequester for months--for months. Yet it gave the traveling public and Congress only 3 days' notice before implementing the furloughs now being blamed for these delays. The FAA Administrator testified before the Commerce and Appropriations Committees last week but made no mention of the magnitude and impact on delays of these furloughs that were just right around the corner.
It seems completely implausible to me he didn't know about them when he was testifying last week. Was the administration hiding the ball from the traveling public? It seems like a fair question.
Frankly, this episode is a perfect illustration of why Republicans sought to give the administration even greater flexibility to ensure they could prioritize essential services. One of the primary areas for which that flexibility was intended was air traffic control. The fact the administration rejected it strongly suggests a political motive is at play.
I would also remind everyone this flexibility was rejected by nearly every Democrat in the Senate, and the President threatened to veto legislation that granted it, holding it hostage to tax hikes instead.
So here is what I would suggest at this point. We are where we are. The Obama administration needs to direct the FAA to review their current spending and use their existing flexibility to keep America moving as smoothly as possible. Ensuring the safe, efficient movement of the traveling public is a much higher priority than the administration's own travel, conferences, and consultants.
Not all government spending is created equally, and so this morning I am calling on the Obama administration and the FAA to be smarter and more transparent about the sequester. That means prioritizing funding to ensure flights are not needlessly delayed or canceled.
If for some reason the President or the FAA do not believe they have the flexibility to address this issue, they should ask Congress for the flexibility they need. Until then, however, they should use the flexibility we all know they do have to ease the burden on passengers.
But let's be clear: We wouldn't even be in this situation if the administration hadn't rejected the flexibility we offered them months ago or if they had done the planning they needed to do in the first place. There is no good reason for these delays.