Embarrassing disclosures of controllers sleeping on duty -- even allowing first lady Michelle Obama's plane to fly too close to another jet -- have heightened scrutiny of the Federal Aviation Administration and raised questions about the agency's ability to manage its workforce and ensure safety.
Republicans see the furor as a way to force certain proposals into a final version of a $59 billion aviation bill that lawmakers will thrash out when Congress returns in May.
These include proposals to privatize more airport towers, consolidate facilities and give FAA management more flexibility in running the sprawling air traffic system. All are part of a larger Republican effort to cut FAA spending by $4 billion.
"Sleeping on the job, near misses - those give me more ammunition when I go into negotiations," John Mica, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Transportation Committee, told Reuters in an interview.
"I think this will affect it," Mica said of the air traffic control controversies, adding that he may seek new provisions in the bill on disciplinary remedies for the worst types of mistakes made by controllers.
Lobbying on the $59 billion aviation bill will heat up in coming weeks. The legislation is already under a White House veto threat due to a provision that would to make it harder for airline and railroad unions to organize.