We're just days away sequestration, the fancy term for $85 billion in funding that will be immediately cut from military, domestic and certain health care programs. Locally that will mean furloughs for civilians over at MacDill Air Force Base, as reported by the Tampa Tribune's Howard Altman.
As President Obama and Congressional Democrats speak publicly about how devastating the cuts will be, Republicans and conservative opinion writers have pushed back, saying it won't be nearly as bad as has been suggested.
But this is not like shutting down the government (that scenario could come up later in March however), so are Americans really that concerned about this far too typical partisan wrangling on Capitol Hill. Maybe now, but how about in a month when their plane is delayed for hours because there aren't a sufficient amount of air traffic controllers patrolling the skies?
That's what Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has been warning, but on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, host Candy Crowley challenged LaHood's assertions, saying that the $600 million hit on the Federal Aviation Authority is just 4% of their overall budget.
The largest number of employees at DOT is at FAA, of which the largest number are FAA controllers," LaHood said.
"We're going to try and cut as much as we possibly can out of contracts and other things that we do," he continued. "But in the end, there has to be some kind of furlough of air traffic controllers, and that will also begin to curtail or eliminate the opportunity for them to guide planes in and out of airports."
The former Illinois GOP Congressman also said it was Congressional Republicans who were responsible for the fact that Congress and the president haven't come up with an alternative to the sequester yet, saying, " “I am a Republican. My audience is trying to persuade my former colleagues that they need to come to the table with a proposal, which frankly they haven’t done. While the president has, the Republicans haven’t."
But John McCain, appearing on State of the Union minutes later, said "Shame on Ray LaHood," pointing out a much discussed Bob Woodward op-ed in the Washington Post on Friday that attributes the creation of the sequester during the budget negotiations in the summer of 2011 to then White House chief-of-staff Jack Lew, slated to become President Obama's next Treasury Secretary.
On NBC's Meet The Press,host David Gregory asked LaHood if it will be safe to fly with the FAA shutting down air traffic control towers.
"One thing we never compromise on is safety," LaHood said. "We will never take a back seat to safety. Safety will not be compromised. But we will have to work with the airlines in slowing planes down. But there will be enough controllers to make sure planes are guided in and out of airports safely ."