Thompson Statement on Today's Homeland Security Authorization
Congressman Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), Ranking Member of the Committee on Homeland Security, issued the following statement regarding the passage of the Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007:
“Homeland security continues to be an issue of critical importance to our nation's future. I am pleased that the majority of this bill consists of Democratic ideas and helps to set an agenda that improves the operation of the Department of Homeland Security. I appreciate the bipartisan spirit with which all Members approached this process. However, in the future, we look forward to an authorization process that precedes the appropriations process.
“Because of the work of Democratic Members:
o Rep. Sanchez (D-CA) will lead a hearing on security training for front line rail and mass transit workers, which will be the first time this Committee addresses securing transportation used by average Americans every day;
o Rep. Pascrell (D-NJ) pushed through an amendment to ensure that businesses that owe the federal government taxes can't be paid for contracts with American tax dollars until they settle their debt.
“Unfortunately, many critical amendments did not make it into this bill, including:
o My amendment to increase funding for the Department by over $6 billion - Unfortunately this was voted down even though most of the $6 billion goes to funding rail and port security priorities.
o An important amendment offered by Rep. Langevin (D-RI) to ensure the safety of our cities and states by funding current and next generation radiation detection equipment at the borders. Unfortunately this too was voted down.
o An amendment, offered by Rep. Markey (D-MA), requiring the TSA to establish a system to inspect 100% of the cargo transported on passenger aircraft within 3 years. This amendment would have also required that the Government Accountability Office issue a report on TSA’s policy of exempting several different types of cargo from the few random physical inspections it currently conducts.
"With the constant drumbeat in the news over the issues of port security, rail security, thwarted terrorist threats, and waste, fraud and abuse at the Department of Homeland Security, this Committee simply cannot take a piecemeal approach to homeland security.
“In addition, we cannot continue to legislate away the problems of the Department without conducting aggressive oversight into the culture of waste, fraud, and abuse that has plagued it. We’ve seen FEMA gone wild, we know the borders are broken, and we can no longer permit popcorn farms and mule races on our national asset database. Secretary Chertoff owes this Committee a thorough explanation about the utter dysfunction of his organization and I am hopeful that by hook or by crook we will see him this fall,” Rep. Thompson said.