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April 22, 2013

Is it the weather or the sequester?

As airline flights got backed up in New York, Charlotte, and Southern California Monday, lawmakers in Washington were quick to lay the blame on the sequestration-mandated furlough of thousands of  Federal Aviation Administration air traffic control personnel.

"The Obama Administration's failure to plan for sequestration is simply irresponsible," Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., said in a written statement. "According to the FAA's own Administrator last week, these furloughs are unnecessary because the agency has the authority and flexibility to move funds from other accounts. Yet instead of protecting travelers from unnescessary delays, President Obama and his cabinet are making American families pay the price for their poor planning."

The comments Blunt and other Republicans Monday come after many Republican leaderes accused the White House of exaggerating the impact of sequester-mandated cuts on the everyday lives of Americans.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., indicated that the White House claims were no bluff, as seen by the number planes slow to pull out of their gates Monday. "In airports across the country, millions of Americans will gett their first taste of the pain of sequestration," Reid said.

"Last week, the Federal Aviation Administration announced that, starting this week, thousands of flights every day will be delayed by up to three hours," Reid said. "Because of the devastating, arbitrary cuts of sequestration, the FAA is forced to furlough tens of thousands of workers. The furloughs could lead to 6,700 delayed flights every day this summer."

But were Monday's flights seuqester-related? No and yes, said Katie Connell, a spokeswoman for Airlines for America, an industry group.

"We are seeing some sequester-related delays in the New York area, combined with some weather (winds)," Connell said in an email interview. "We are also seeing some minor sequester-related delays in Southern California, but they are not significant."

Late Monday afternoon Connell added: "There are now Ground Delay Programs in place at all three New York City area airports, in part due to weather (wind) and controller staffing. Charlotte now has a Ground Delay Program in place due to staffing, with an average delay wait of about 20 minutes. There are other delays occurring in Denver and Minneapolis due to snow."

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