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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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April 26th, 2013
06:22 PM ET

Congress quickly acts to preserve short lines at airports, then leave town

Thousands of air traffic controllers will head back to work soon. On Friday, the House voted for a bill ending the furloughs that went into effect Sunday, and subsequently caused some 3,000 flight delays.

The bill gives the FAA permission to move money from another part of its budget to fund the controllers, some wiggle room in the forced federal spending cuts. President Obama is expected to sign it late Friday.

The FAA says the furloughs should be reversed fairly quickly. Right now, as many as 1,500 air traffic controllers are furloughed per day. But the transportation secretary can quickly move money into the account that funds their salaries.

Though it passed the Senate and House overwhelmingly, and very fast, not all Democrats are pleased.

Walking the halls of the house today, you heard a lot of House Democrats cursing under their breath, and their frustration was aimed at fellow Democrats at the White House and in the Senate who agreed to fix furloughs that delay air travelers, without trying to extract concessions from Republicans in areas where forced spending cuts are hurting the least fortunate, like children on Head Start programs.

"I have a hard time going back home to the Mayo Clinic, and for them saying, 'Why is cancer research money not restored when you give FAA money?' And I think that's a fair question to ask," said Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minnesota.

Cancer research, and lots of other people hurt by forced spending cuts, may not have a voice because they are not frequent travelers.

"It's out of sight, out of mind. But if you're on a plane, so you're irritated by this, all of a sudden we need to make an adjustment to it," said Walz.

Other Democrats said helping air travelers, and doing it in such a bipartisan way, is politically pragmatic, something they had to get off their plate to avoid getting distracted from issues they want to talk about.

It perhaps is no accident that of all the effects of forced spending cuts, flight delays affect congressmen personally more than anything else. As soon as House members approved this measure that would change the law to make sure flights are not delayed because of spending cuts they put into effect, they all raced to the airports to go home for the weekend.

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