Al Kamen
Al Kamen
In the Loop

Sequestration doesn’t fly

Win McNamee/Getty Images - Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (L) answers questions during a briefing as Press Secretary Jay Carney looks on February 22, 2013 at the White House. LaHood said that more than 100 air traffic control towers would be closed if budget cuts implemented due to sequestration happen.

Forget threats of furloughed workers or reduced security at embassies.

Here’s what might be the most powerful incentive yet for members of Congress to come up with a deal to avert the sequester: The head of the Air Force warned Monday that the spending cuts that will go into effect March 1 could cause the military to eliminate those lovely miljet flights that lawmakers enjoy.

Al Kamen

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. He began his reporting career at the Rocky Mountain News and joined The Post in 1980. He has covered local and federal courts, the Supreme Court and the State Department. Follow him on Twitter.

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The senator may be a lame duck, but he can still fly to Europe.

Members of Congress adore flying on Air Force jets, particularly for overseas trips — there are no security lines, check-in is a breeze, the service couldn’t be better, and all seats are business-class.

But if the government-wide cuts aren’t thwarted and the military has to pinch pennies, lawmakers might have to kiss those perks goodbye, Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the crowd at the Air Force Association’s winter conference in Orlando, according to a transcript. They might have to nix “interagency and congressional senior leader travel,” he warned.

Lawmakers flying commercial? The horror.

And if members of Congress are forced into such dire circumstances, they’re in for even more delays. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood cautioned Friday that the sequester could cause major backups in airports around the country.

So much for all those fact-finding trips.

The House divided?

It may not have snagged the Oscar for best picture, but the movie “Lincoln” is still a smash hit in official Washington.

LaHood suggested last week that the flick about the 16th president could offer a template for averting the sequester.

“Go and see ‘Lincoln,’ ” the transportation secretary advised Republicans during an appearance at a White House press briefing during which he outlined the impact of the budget cuts (think airport delays, angry passengers calling lawmakers, etc.).

He indicated that congressional negotiators should learn from Honest Abe, who “gathered people around him” to negotiate and solve tough problems.

Not that the sequester can be equated with, you know, the potential dissolution of the Union, but still . . .

Maybe if the White House offered to buy the popcorn?

Something in the airwaves

Speculation has long been swirling around who might replace Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski . But hold the phone — all that sturm and drang may be for naught.

It appears he’s staying put for a bit.

Yes, technically, Genachowski’s term expires June 30. But by law, he can remain until Congress leaves town at the end of 2014. Other signs that he’s sticking around include a planned appearance at the National Association of Broadcasters conference in April, and his continued interest in the FCC’s plan to buy back television licenses and auction the spectrum to wireless providers, something we’re told Genachowski feels ownership of.

The White House is plenty busy filling all the actual vacancies that have cropped up in President Obama’s second term (starting with seven Cabinet or Cabinet-rank jobs), so finding a replacement for Genachowski apparently isn’t high on the to-do list.

For his part, Genachowski has deflected questions about when he might step down.

But for fun — and the parlor game always is, isn’t it? — here’s some of the names most often heard as potential successors: Larry Strickling, a longtime Obama supporter who now heads the National Telecommunications and Information Administration; former FCC adviser Blair Levine ; Karen Kornbluh , ambassador to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; and current FCC commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel .

But they probably shouldn’t wait by the phone.

Greens seeing red

He’s not even an official nominee yet, but Ernest Moniz , who is said to be the White House’s top candidate for energy secretary, is already prompting grousing among the enviro set.

Moniz, a scientist and professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is the most-mentioned pick to replace Steven Chu, who plans to return to Stanford. As was the case with Chu, Moniz’s academic background — and his lack of political baggage — is thought to be a plus.

But before Moniz has gotten the president’s nod, environmental groups are already crying foul, expressing concern about his support for natural gas and nuclear power as energy sources.

Moniz has endorsed the use of natural gas, and a study he wrote asserted that the risks of the controversial practice of fracking were manageable, which is anathema to greenie groups.

Environmentalists also are questioning Moniz’s stint as a director of the MIT Energy Initiative, an industry-funded organization.

“We urge him to leave dangerous nuclear energy and toxic fracking behind while focusing on safe, clean energy sources like wind and solar,” Sierra Club legislative director Melinda Pierce told Greenwire. In the same article, Public Citizen called the pick “disappointing.”

More piling on: An official with the Center for Biological Diversity told the Hill newspaper that Moniz “could very well be a political hack for the natural gas industry.”

Guess it’s never too soon to sharpen those knives.

NOAA’s arc

Speaking of Stanford, Chu isn’t the only Obama administration refugee heading there. Also heading westward is Jane Lubchenco, outgoing administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She’ll be a visiting scholar this spring, the university announced, and will be giving weekly seminars and working with students and faculty members on “sustainability science and environmental policy.”

With Emily Heil

kamena@washpost.com

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

 
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