US Congress Acts to End Air Traffic Delays

The U.S. Congress has completed action to curb the layoffs of air traffic controllers, which have resulted in thousands of delayed flights in the last few days.

The House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly Friday for legislation that would give the Department of Transportation more budget flexibility so it could stop furloughing 1,500 air traffic controllers every day. With fewer controllers working at airport terminals, airlines have had to cancel hundreds of flights and delay even more to keep from overcrowding the skies.

The House action followed a Senate vote late Thursday, just before Congress leaves Washington for a week-long recess. The White House said President Barack Obama would sign the legislation.

Senator Susan Collins said the furloughs of the air traffic controllers were hurting air travelers.

"These are simply irresponsible cuts that have real and detrimental impacts on the traveling public," she said.

U.S. officials say they were forced to furlough about 10 percent of their air traffic controllers every day to meet the demands of a plan that took effect March 1 aimed at reining in the government's chronic budget deficits.

Congressional Republicans advocating sharp cuts in government spending say Obama's Democratic administration could have found ways to trim transportation spending other than by cutting the number of air traffic controllers on duty. Instead, all of them were scheduled for unpaid layoffs one day every two weeks.

But now, after many complaints from travelers about the air traffic delays, the lawmakers have given the transportation agency explicit authority to redirect funding to keep the air traffic controllers on the job.

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