But political calculations also figured into a mini-drama that resulted in the bill's passage late last week, as Obama and Republicans continue to blame one another for the inconveniences caused by across-the-board spending cuts.
The White House abruptly retreated under pressure last Wednesday when it indicated it would accept an easing of the FAA cuts while leaving the balance of the $85 billion in reductions unchanged. Given lengthy political struggle surrounding across-the-board cuts, the issue was sensitive enough so that when Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine and Mark Udall, D-Colo., initially proposed legislation that explicitly said the measure would assure the towers remain open, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., objected, according to several officials briefed on the discussions.
The wording was altered to drop the explicit reference, although the flexibility to keep the towers open was retained. It was not clear whether Reid insisted on his own behalf, as a proxy for other Democrats, or on behalf of the White House.
But it was not the first time the leader has become involved in a struggle over the fate of the towers.
When the Senate was debating a different measure earlier in the year, he quietly prevented Moran from gaining a vote on a stand-alone proposal to keep the towers open.
A spokesman for Reid was not immediately available to comment.
Huerta testified recently that the cost of cancelling FAA furloughs would be $220 million through Sept. 30, leaving about $33 million in freed-up funding to maintain the towers. He also said the agency is working with about 50 communities and airport operators in hopes of arranging alternative funding.
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