Another testy exchange was about whether Huerta kept the looming budget challenge too much to himself. Rogers asked whether Huerta has asked Congress for greater flexibility, so the sequester cuts wouldn't fall so harshly on traffic control.
“No,” Huerta said.
“That's what I thought,” Rogers responded.
This verbal clash is a sign of how the FAA furloughs have emerged as a focal point of budget politics.
Both Republicans and Democrats say the sequester, with its automatic spending cuts across most federal programs, is a bad idea – and that the answer is to replace the cuts with a long-term plan for fiscal solvency.
But many Democrats say Republicans, in their zeal for spending cuts, are to blame for allowing the sequester to go into effect in March. So far, the general public has seen relatively few headline-grabbing effects of the spending cuts.
That changed early this week, with reports of furlough-related flight delays at many airports.
The flight delays aren’t necessarily huge, and it remains early to assess how bad they’ll ultimately be during the busy summer travel season.
“Yesterday more than 1,200 delays in the system were attributable to staffing reductions resulting from the furlough,” the FAA said in a statement Tuesday. That’s about 5 percent of all flights on a typical day.
More flights were delayed Monday because of “weather and other factors” – some 1,400 – than because of furloughs, the agency said.
Still, the delays are causing frustrations for travelers. Many flights were delayed for an hour or more.