By Stephen Pope
As sequestration budget cuts start phasing in today, Vice President Joe Biden and members of Congress will have to find new ways to get where they’re going after the military aircraft they normally fly aboard were ordered to stay on the ground.
In the case of the vice president, his decision to stop flying on Air Force Two for trips between Washington and his Delaware home was voluntary. Instead, he’ll be taking the train.
Members of Congress, meanwhile, won’t be allowed to travel on military airplanes now that the forced spending cuts have kicked in. House Speaker John Boehner informed Republican House members of the new policy during a closed-door meeting on Wednesday.
It’s all part of the across-the-board belt tightening that starts today as the federal government slashes its budget by $85 billion, the result of automatic cuts put in place after Congress and the White House failed to hammer out a budget deal.
The FAA is preparing to close 168 contract control towers by April 1, and is also warning that sequestration will likely slow the pace of NextGen modernization and many certification programs. In all, the Department of Transportation must trim its budget by more than $1 billion.
Flights by President Obama aboard Air Force One and Marine One are unaffected by the government budget cuts. As for the vice president, he’s apparently quite happy to be forgoing the weekly trips on Air Force Two, a modified Boeing 757, and taking a seat on Amtrak instead. The train was his preferred mode of transportation between home and work when he was a Senator. He stopped riding the rails only at the insistence of the Secret Service.
Because of the budget cuts, Biden said, “I was able to say, ‘Look guys, I’ve got to take the train now – it’s cheaper than flying.’ So I get to take the train again.”