WASHINGTON — With flight delays mounting, the Senate approved hurry-up legislation late Thursday to end air traffic controller furloughs blamed for inconveniencing large numbers of travelers.
A House vote on the measure was expected as early as Friday, with lawmakers eager to embark on a weeklong vacation.
Under the legislation, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would gain authority to transfer as much as $253 million from accounts that are flush into other programs, to “prevent reduced operations and staffing” through the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year.
If the Senate bill wins House approval and is signed into law by President Obama, the furloughed controllers are not expected to return to work before Saturday.
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Although fewer flights were delayed Thursday than earlier in the week, Friday is one of the busiest travel days.
In addition to restoring full staffing by controllers, Senate officials said the available funds should be ample enough to prevent the closure of small airport towers nationwide. The FAA had said it would shut the facilities as it makes its share of $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts that took effect last month at numerous government agencies.
There was no immediate reaction at the White House, although administration officials participated in the negotiations that led to the deal and evidently registered no objections.
Senate approval followed several hours of closed-door negotiations, and came after most senators had left the Capitol on the assumption that the talks had failed.