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FAA says air traffic staffing is returning to normal

The Federal Aviation Administration said Saturday that it had suspended its employee furloughs and was in the process of returning to normal staffing levels, a day after Congress approved legislation to relieve spending cuts to the nation's air traffic control system.

The agency said it expected its operations to be back to normal by this evening, a move that would bring the air traffic control system back to full strength a week after staff reductions began causing extra delays to flights across the country.

The furloughs for air traffic controllers were a result of $85 billion in spending cuts that took effect March 1 and have cascaded across the federal government.

Concerned about the inconvenience that the delays were posing for travelers across the country, the Senate approved a measure Thursday that would give the federal transportation secretary flexibility to shift as much as $253 million to the air traffic control system and return the system's staffing to full strength.

The House approved the measure Friday as President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats relented on their stand that the airport delays would be addressed only as part of a broader effort to reverse the across-the-board spending cuts.