WASHINGTON -- Former Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) said Monday it was wrong of lawmakers to unanimously pass legislation last month to ease the effects of sequestration on the Federal Aviation Administration, calling it bad policy and "unfair" to all the other programs struggling to adjust to the $85 billion in across-the-board federal budget cuts.
During an in-studio interview with Julie Mason of SiriusXM, Snowe criticized former colleagues for not "doing the hard work" to come up with more thoughtful spending cuts to replace the sequester in its entirety. Instead, lawmakers are now turning to piecemeal fixes. She noted lawmakers' self-interest in giving help to the FAA, which was bracing for long lines and flight delays because of the cuts.
"You noticed what got Congress' attention was of course -- and I know the mentality of having been there -- the air traffic controllers," Snowe said. "They're leaving for recess. They're going to be trapped on planes."
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) conceded last week that the FAA vote and others like it defeat the purpose of sequestration, designed to be so painful that it would spur lawmakers to replace it completely with more thoughtful cuts, which never happened. But Reid didn't rule out more piecemeal fixes and noted he's already getting requests from other groups, including the Pentagon, for more money.
Snowe said patchwork fixes to sequestration aren't just bad policy, they're not fair. Not everyone has the ear of a lawmaker to carve out a special exception for their programs, she said, namely those that provide help to the nation's most vulnerable, such as Head Start and Meals On Wheels.
"Their voices aren't as loud. It isn't fair, absolutely" Snowe told HuffPost after her interview with SiriusXM’s Press Pool. "It is an unevenness in fairness to the whole issue. [Lawmakers] should be looking to what works and what doesn't work and doing their jobs. It gets back to the budget."