Chad’s Morning Brief: Democrats Blink on FAA Sequester Cuts, Obama and Clinton Push Immigration at Bush Library, & More
Here is your Morning Brief for the morning of April 26, 2013. Give me your feedback below and tune in to The Chad Hasty Show for these and many more topics from 8:30 to 11am.
1. Dems Blink (link)
The Obama administration and Democrats have been arguing all week that sequester cuts have forced the FAA to cut back on air traffic controllers. The result being delays at airports around the country. The Democrats have also in the past been against picking and choosing where to move money to. That ending last night.
The White House and Democrats in Congress argued for months against a piecemeal fix to the budget problems caused by the sequester.
But on Thursday, Democrats caved in and agreed to allow the Federal Aviation Administration to keep air traffic control towers running at close to full capacity.
All it took was a few thousand people standing in line at the airport.
The Senate approved a deal late Thursday to ease the FAA's burden following negotiations among both parties and the White House. The House is expected to take up the bill Friday, just before the congressional weeklong recess, so President Barack Obama can sign it.
While travelers may be relieved, some Democrats worry about saving the FAA while letting other domestic programs across the government suffer under the automatic budget cuts.
“I doubt the most disadvantaged citizens are flying on commercial aircraft,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), who called piecemeal solutions “sequester budget Whac-A-Mole.”
Sounding a similar theme, top House aviation Democrat Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) lamented on C-SPAN that “no 3- or 4-year-old is going to call my office and say, ‘I’ve been kicked out of Head Start, replace that money.’”
Democrats admit that it’s a Band-Aid approach — but one they may have to live with before there’s a revolt from the flying public.
“We’re just fooling ourselves if we think that we are doing the American people any favor by not finding a real solution,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was nonetheless open to a fix that would move money from other Transportation Department accounts to shore up the FAA. “A real solution is to go to the table and to have a reconciliation of the budget.”
For two months, the Obama administration had been banking on public angst about gridlock in the skies to get Republicans back to the table on the across-the-board cuts that took effect March 1.
Furloughs of 15,000 air traffic controllers and shutdowns of dozens of control towers would create a “calamity” for air traffic, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned in a White House appearance in February, painting a scenario of flight delays and cancellations that would hit vacationing families and business travelers alike.
Those furloughs finally began hitting airports and airlines on Sunday. But Republicans say the administration was bluffing all along.
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has repeatedly called the air traffic problems the administration's own creation, said Democrats' pressure tactics from the start were "a bad strategy."
GOP lawmakers have charged that the FAA was implementing its cuts in a way designed to maximize the pain for the public. In a letter to LaHood on Thursday, leading House Republicans Darrell Issa and Bill Shuster alleged that “at least some senior FAA officials believe that the agency has both the resources and the budgetary flexibility to avoid the furloughs.”
The administration’s strategy was “designed to send a message to the American people that they better beat on the doors of their congressmen and women and say, ‘We can’t afford to reduce the increase in spending,’” Moran said. Moran had unsuccessfully pushed an amendment in March that would have prevented air traffic control towers from being closed, but he said LaHood told him the administration was opposed to such a one-off deal.
This could be good for Republicans as Democrats could decide to give in more as the sequester continues. Were the delays that big of a deal? Of course not, but it shows that if the GOP can stand together, they could get some small wins along the way.
2. Immigration at the Bush Dedication (link)
The George W. Bush Library Dedication was a great event to watch. Each former President had nice things to say about former President George W. Bush, and two of them even used Bush to make a political point. Both Bill Clinton and President Obama applauded Bush for his work on immigration. Comments that were aimed at Republican lawmakers in Congress.
President Obama and former President Clinton praised former President George W. Bush this morning for his efforts to pass immigration reform.
President Obama reminded the audience of Bush “reaching across the aisle to unlikely allies like Ted Kennedy” for his bipartisan efforts on No Child Left Behind and immigration reform.
“Seven years ago, President Bush restarted an important conversation by speaking with the American people about our history as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants,” Obama said. “And even though comprehensive immigration reform has taken a little longer than any of us expected, I am hopeful that this year, with the help of Speaker Boehner and some of the Senators and members of Congress who are here today, that we bring it home.”
Clinton mentioned immigration briefly during his remarks after praising Bush for his work on aid to Africa.
“I want to thank you for your efforts, when president, to reform our immigration system, and keep America a nation of immigrants, and I hope that Congress will follow President Obama’s efforts to follow the example you’ve set,” Clinton said.
Politically, it was pretty interesting to hear Obama basically use Bush to try and help him out. I don't really know if that was the time or place, but that ship has sailed. Will it help immigration reform? Not at all.
3. Obamacare Changes? (link)
Democrats are divided over changes to Obamacare. Changes that could see members of Congress exempt from the law.
Democrats have differing interpretations about what exactly congressional leadership is considering changing in the Affordable Care Act.
POLITICO reported Wednesday that top congressional leaders were discussing revising the law to change how lawmakers and staff enter exchanges and how much they would have to pay.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Thursday she has been in “close contact” with her deputy, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), about his talks to tweak health benefits for congressional lawmakers and aides.
“Reading the legislation carefully as to what it calls for and what an exchange is, and what the federal employee health benefit plan is compatible plan under the exchanges, we just have to look at all of that,” Pelosi said.
An aide later emailed that Pelosi was talking about “a a possible fix to the Grassley language that all Members, all staff (committee, leadership and personal office) be required to choose exchange plans through the Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan.”
But Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), issued a statement Thursday afternoon that seemed to knock it down.
“Sen. Reid is committed to ensuring that all members of Congress and congressional staff experience the benefits of the Affordable Care Act in exactly the same way as every other American,” Jentleson said. “He believes that this is the effect of the legislation as written, and that therefore no legislative fix is necessary.
“There are not now, have never been, nor will there ever be any discussions about exempting members of Congress or congressional staff from Affordable Care Act provisions that apply to any employees of any other public or private employer offering health care,” he added.
Keep your eyes on this.
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