All In   |  April 26, 2013

Congress protects air travelers alone among sequester victims

Chris Hayes points to the thousands of low-income Americans suffering under sequestration as Congress rushes through a fix for FAA cuts that were delaying flights and talks with members of Congress who voted both for and against the FAA measure.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> with chris hayes starts right now.

>>> good evening from new york . i'm chris hayes . thank you for joining us tonight. lots to cover this evening, including the increasing and in some cases misleading pressure for the united states to intervene in syria. also, president obama makes history long overdue history, in a remarkable story emerges from the aftermath of the boston bombings. all this, plus click three. but we begin tonight with the big flashing headline breaking news of the day, from the least popular branch of government, widely seen as the most dysfunctional branch of government, the one that contains the right wing republican house caucus committed to obstruction above all else in that branch of government. today, today we saw a remarkable display of emergency and pragmatic problem solving come together in a matter of hours to fix the moment pressing trouble facing america today. and that very pressing problem is extended travel delays for frequent flyers and members of congress . yes, a long and tortured path to triumph on this issue. but a vote, resoureding margin, representatives agreeing to tackle the delays due it furlough of aviation workers. the faa and transportation department started sounding alarms about furloughs, having workers take temporary time off, in february, explaining consequences they expected to arise from staffing cuts they were about to be forced to make by the sequester.

>> flights it major cities, like new york , chicago and san francisco could experience delays. in some instances up to 90 minutes in peak hours because we will have fewer controllers on staff and this would ripple across the country.

>> this is very painful for us because it involved our employees. but it'll be very painful for the flying public.

>> then the furloughs actually started and so did the actual flight delays and suddenly this week, this week, congress was demanding to know why they had not been warned.

>> i hope you have some answers for us today. but the first question i want answered is, why didn't you tell us about it beforehand?

>> behave been talking about reduction in available controller hours of 10% for months.

>> but you didn't tell them which airports, which airlines.

>> we told them they should expect significant impacts at major hub facilities.

>> well, latida, everyone knew that mp. that is what see quester is all about.

>> that is what the sequester is all about. but nevertheless, about two months into the implementation of the sequester, which some claimed they didn't want, and now we have the first part of the legislation to undo that part of the sequester and it makes people wait longer at the airport. and as much as waiting at the airport sucks, here is who will not get relief from the bill passed today by members of congress . thousands of cancer patients on medicare who are being turned away by clinics where they were treated with expensive chemotherapy drugs. roughly 70,000 kids expected to lose eligibility for head start programs. the 1,000 would-be scientific researchers who won't get grants. older americans who will get fewer meals delivered from the meals on wheels program. low income families getting bumped from section 8 housing assistance. everyone who eats anything in this country as a sequester will cost us 2100 food inspections. and this phenomenon is not lost on anyone. the white house is not even trying to defend the president's decision to sign the flight delay fix.

>> how is it fair or right or just that these kids on head start get their cuts that these cuts go into effect at the defense department and it's tough luck. but when a bunch of business travellers start belly aching because their flights are delayed because of furlough at faa , they get one of the fastest pieces of legislation to move through washington in recent memory. why doesn't the president take a stand against that?

>> you could throw in members of congress who needs flights home also. but the fact is, the delays are a problem for not just business travellers and members of congress , but for many americans . and that's a real negative consequence of the sequester. but your point is excellent.

>> why is the president making an exception then for air travellers?

>> the president believes it is good news to eliminate this problem. as i've said and, you know, he believes this is a band-aid covering a massive wound to the eken my.

>> that's true. a massive wound. the sequester, let's be clear, is a horrible policy that never should have been implemented and should be repealed completely tomorrow, full stop. but literal lit only virtue of the sequester, the only virtue is that it yolks together cuts across the board such that middle class folks who want to visit public parks in the summer and wealthy folks who want to fly for business and leisure and poor folks who rely on wic or home energy assistance, at least they were cut equally. if the self inflicted wound had one single tiny little redeeming quality, it is that it bound everyone together. now congress has wasted no time. a princeton political scientist did a break through study in which he compared u.s. senators voting records to the opinions of their constituent. and lo and behold, here is what he found. he found that quote in almost every instance, senators are considerably for responsive to opinions of affluent constituent than the opinions of middle class while the con stit yunt in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical affect on the senators' roll call votes. here is what that looks like in chart form. if you are in low income category, you may as well not exist to your senator. middle income , their opinions correlate at least a little bit. but look at the high income group. these opinions matter to senator the most. the faa deal cut today is what this chart looks like in real life . recent polling and research shows majority of americans , majority of americans do not travel by air in a given year. the minority of americans who do travel by air, who travel frequently enough to be inconvenienced after a month are certainly the more affluent among us. defining feature of congress since republicans control the house in 2010 is the fact that it has been wholly unresponsive to the groiinding economic misery and doing much of anything exception pursuing pet projects of the dennor class. and what happened today is like a perfect absurdom of that idea. and those that travel are themselves members of congress . this is one step away from voting themselves a pay raise in the midst of the sequester.

>> you know, i have to travel probably more than most of my constituents and i face the same things that most people face. and i think my constituents know it.

>> i think it was important to give flexibility so we won't inconvenience people in this really unacceptable way.

>> inconvenience people in an unacceptable way. here is what i wish could happen today. i wish every single cancer patient and every kid who is getting kicked out of head start and every person losing a job at a government facility because of cut backs or furloughs. every family losing section 8 housing assistance. i wish every single one of them could have gotten together and bussed by the thousands to all parts of the country to reagan national airport and rolled out on to the runway and strung out in a line that stretches across the entire field so that those planes carrying members of congress who just cast this vote couldn't take off. how is that for inconvenience, senator?

>>> joining me from washington , democrat from illinois who voted for the faa bill today, hakeem jeffreys from democrat from new york who voted against the bill. we asked republican fess we could speak with any republican who voted for the bill and we're told not one of them was available. congressman jeffreys, i will begin with you and ask you. you were in the minority of people. only 41 people voted against the bill. why did you vote against the bill?

>> sequestration is a random policy bad for the economy and we need to do away with it completely. what occurred today is an example of choosing a limited affluent group of americans to rescue from sequestration, while leaving the most vulnerable amongst us. head start children, seniors who receive meals on wheels . public housing residents. expectant mothers who rely on government nutritional programs. long-term unemployed who experienced the benefits cut. we left them on the battlefield to suffer continuously from sequestration but rescue affluent business travellers.

>> you did not want to break those two groups of people apart.

>> in my view, we shouldn't break those groups apart. if we intervene in any way, the responsible thing to do is rescue those americans who are amongst the most vulnerable in our society.

>> okay. congressman, let's stipulate here at the beginning, you and i and congressman jeffreys probably share a good perception of the world we would live in.

>> that's right.

>> it involves getting rid of the sequestration, the calk caucus budget, all kind of things we can dream about this weekend. but you today cast a vote today. you cast your vote for this fix. i want it understand your thinking. was it simply the pragmatic thing of, there is one world of which we have flight delays and another world we don't have flight delays so i will take the world in which we don't have flight delays?

>> there is another consideration, chris. first of all, i agree with everything that you said and everything congressman jeffreys said. but there are also 47,000 federal workers that work for the federal aviation administration and they're going to see a two-week cut in pay. federal workers have already seen their pay frozen between now and september. and so to end those furloughs, i thought that i would cast a vote in favor of those federal workers. i also am supportive and a co-sponsor of legislation that would completely repeal the sequester and rail as you have against the cuts that affect so many people and are so painful. the 4 million meals on wheels , that aren't going to be delivered. and you know, they also cut the medicare and medicaid anti-fraud work, which returns -- you know, it's crazy.

>> there is a strategic problem here. there is a case to be made that the delays, the sheer inconvenience to members of congress themselveses, caused by these delays was a point of leverage and looking that strategically here, i want to give you an eric cantor memo sent out on this fix. as cq role call reporter said last night, make no mistake, this fix is a complete utter cave by democrats and if signed by the white house they would only replace a he is quester with tax increases. but last night senators were adopting the cut this not that approach. this victory is in large part as a result of standing under the banner of hash tag obama flight delays. has a leverage been given up. or has a precedent been made, to fix and the kids in head start are fill out of luck?

>> one of the more galling things on the part of the republicans is that they suggested that the whole faa thing was just a political manipulation, and that it wasn't real. and i think that the idea that these are absolutely real cuts finally hit home to them. i don't think so, chris, that we've given up leverage. it th is not the only thing that will come up and i don't think it is the only effort that the -- or the only squawking that republicans are going to do --

>> do about the cuts.

>> right. i think that is underscores that these are absolutely real. that there are consequences to the sequester.

>> congressman, do you think an opportunity was missed for leverage here? if you could run the clock back, the last three or four days, how would you like to see this play out?

>> i think an opportunity was missed and i think the first strategic mistakes occurred in the senate. senate majority could have sent over a bill that dealt with the faa issue but also perhaps dealt with the long-term unemployment issue.

>> you have attached something to it.

>> dealt with the head start issue. dealt with the meals on wheels issue and sent the bill over to the house of representatives and forced the house gop majority to vote it down.

>> kick out the kids or head start or unemployed. instead, what you got, and we should be very clear about this, i can go through the roll call of who voted for and against the bill in the house. it was adopted through unanimous consent. no one is on the record. it just magically appeared out of the senate as a fate of complete.

>> i didn't realize that affluent travellers was such a lby. this was adopted at record speed when you have vulnerable americans across the country. hopefully this will wake up the weak among us to put pressure on washington .

>> congresswoman, quickly, when do you think the next opportunity comes to extract that leverage? what is the next fight you see brewing on the sequester?

>> well, we're going to continue to raise the issues that you did tonight. all of the various cuts that hurt the people who need the help the most, that need cancer research and head start , you know, in indiana they are doing a lottery to figure out which kids will be thrown out of their head start program. and this is not the end of that.

>> congressman jeffreys of new york . congresswoman of illinois, good to have you both.

>> thank you.

>> president obama made history today , something that took 97 years for a president to do. that's coming up. my spine.