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Air traffic control furloughs: 'Manufactured crisis'

| Tuesday, April 23, 2013, 6:39 p.m.

WASHINGTON — As delayed flights jammed up air travel, Senate Republicans on Tuesday blamed the White House for furloughing air traffic controllers, as Democrats offered a proposal to replace the sequester cuts that have begun to affect ordinary Americans who need services from the federal government.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called the problems in airports a “manufactured crisis.” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, called it “phony and contrived.”

“It just smells of politics,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., as the senators urged the administration to find savings elsewhere in the Department of Transportation budget and put the air traffic controllers back to work. He suggested cutting other Federal Aviation Administration employees.

“You can only conclude, just like the — shutting down the White House tours during spring break — it's meant to impact in a most negative way possible on the air traveling public,” Thune said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., proposed using money saved from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to replace the sequester cuts, an offer that is likely to be rejected by Republicans, who have often dismissed the idea as a gimmick because the conflicts were already planned to end under the Obama administration.

The Senate may try to vote to advance Reid's bill later this week.

The sequester cuts began in March when Democrats and Republicans failed to devise a compromise approach to trimming deficits. The sequester slices $85 billion through Sept. 30, and had been considered a last-ditch option that was so unpopular it would push the lawmakers to the table to negotiate a solution. That never happened.

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