Air travelers received a bit of good news recently: A bill to put air traffic controllers back to work whisked through the House and Senate and flew into the White House for President Obama’s signature.
Why the quick action?
Millions of constituents were outraged with how the FAA handled a 4 percent budget cut mandated by the sequester. Instead of focusing on non-essential personnel, the FAA furloughed 10 percent of its 15,000 air traffic controllers each day, causing more than 40,000 flight delays and 1,900 cancelled flights, according to FlightStats.com.
Congress felt the heat from angry voters.
The fast action reminded me of a similar circumstance in 1973 when I was a congressional aide.
The Washington Redskins games at RFK Stadium consistently sold out. People actually put their Redskins season tickets in their wills.
At the time, the political atmosphere in D.C. was as acrimonious as it is today. President Richard Nixon was under siege with the Watergate scandal and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. Nevertheless, they managed to agree on one issue of importance to everyone: football.
Nixon wanted the National Football League to lift its television blackout of home football games. Members of Congress wanted the same.
The president sent word to NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle that, if he would lift the ban for playoff games, he would veto legislation allowing the telecast of home games that were sold out 72 hours in advance.
Rozelle resisted. It was a huge mistake.
In just three days, the House of Representatives approved legislation lifting the TV blackout by a vote of 336 to 37. The Senate concurred by voice vote just 27 minutes later.
“President Nixon signed the bill the next day, then repaired to Camp David to watch his beloved Redskins beat San Diego on a telecast from Washington that the measure, now Public Law 93-107, had made possible,” Sports Illustrated reported.
The point is, Congress and the president can make things happen quickly when they want to.
They need to act quickly now, because our nation is facing massive debt and the train wreck that is Obamacare is looming.
Our national debt is approaching $17 trillion and increasing by $3.82 billion a day. That means each of us owes $53,400 on our national credit card bill.
And the problem is growing worse. President Obama’s 2014 budget would leave the nation with a $744 billion budget deficit, despite entitlement cuts and tax hikes. The president would raise taxes more than $800 billion over a decade.
That doesn’t include skyrocketing health care costs associated with Obamacare — a law that fully implements in just eight months.
An additional 30 million Americans are expected to be covered under Obamacare, and the latest estimate from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says the program will cost $1.8 trillion over 10 years, nearly double the original estimate just three years ago.
In January, the Internal Revenue Service estimated that the cheapest plan for a family of four will cost $20,000 per year by 2016, more than $4,000 higher than what families pay now. Taxpayers will subsidize those who cannot afford to pay for the coverage.
Our struggling economy, crushing debt and the mounting costs of Obamacare are vastly more important than an NFL television blackout. It’s time for politicians in Washington, D. C. to stop their bickering and finger-pointing and act quickly before it’s too late.
Don Brunell is president of the Association of Washington Business, Washington state’s chamber of commerce.