Reid Promises Vote on TSA Nominee

Posted December 30, 2009 at 6:00am

Despite a hold placed by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday vowed to hold a vote on President Barack Obama’s nominee to lead the Transportation Security Administration as soon as the Senate returns in January.Reid’s statement was spurred on by a thwarted terrorist attack on a Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight.Reid said he will file a motion to force debate on the nomination of Erroll G. Southers, a former FBI special agent and a counterterrorism expert, in an effort to break a partisan logjam that has stalled the process.DeMint put a hold on Southers’ nomination in November out of concerns that his support for allowing TSA workers to unionize would prevent the agency from being able to respond quickly to an attack. In the meantime, TSA continues to be without a permanent head at a time when Obama has ordered a sweeping review of security policies following the foiled Christmas Day attack on the Northwest flight coming from Amsterdam.Reid blasted Republicans for “playing politics with national security— by blocking Southers’ confirmation. “Not only is this a failed strategy but a dangerous one as well, with serious potential consequences for our country,— he said in a statement.But DeMint on Tuesday appeared to stand by his decision to block Southers’ confirmation, as his office sent out background materials and articles backing his claim that collective bargaining would hinder TSA security measures.Collective bargaining “jeopardizes TSA’s ability to move people and equipment and change protocols on a daily bases to prevent future attacks, such as the UK liquids bomb plot and most recently in the hours after the Christmas terror attempt,— DeMint said in a statement.In addition, he highlighted that former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff opposed collective bargaining at TSA and that Congress rejected the idea following the 9/11 attacks. DeMint also warned that unionizing TSA screeners would force the agency to share sensitive intelligence in explaining new work requirements.