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Motion To Go To Conference On H.R. 1, Improving America's Security Act Of 2007

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


MOTION TO GO TO CONFERENCE ON H.R. 1, IMPROVING AMERICA'S SECURITY ACT OF 2007 -- (House of Representatives - July 17, 2007)

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

The motion to instruct would require the Secretary to deny a Transportation Worker Identification Credential, a TWIC, to any applicant who has been convicted of certain crimes.

This card is the access card to our Nation's critical and sensitive port and maritime facilities. We have over 750,000 workers who access our ports daily. TWIC was created to ensure that they are all screened and that they pose no threat of terrorism.

Now, our motion would specify that individuals convicted of certain crimes, such as treason, espionage, sedition or murder, would be permanently disqualified from receiving a TWIC card. This would further specify interim disqualifying crimes, such as smuggling, arson, kidnapping or robbery, that would disqualify an individual within a certain timeframe of conviction.

This provision provides the right balance between ensuring that our ports are safe while ensuring that we have the workers we need to get the job done in a timely manner.

We all agree that protecting our ports is one of the most critical duties that we have. All the guns, all the gates, all the guards in the world, every bit of that is useless if we give an individual a TWIC card to walk right past them.

This would ensure that the screening of these individuals is thorough, and that it is complete. While some may argue that this will unnecessarily disqualify too many individuals, we have already provided for an appeal and waiver process elsewhere to ensure that individuals can apply for a TWIC despite their past history.

This section that we are offering today in this motion to instruct passed the Senate 94-2. Our motion to instruct would accede to the language in the Senate provision.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, I would like to call to the body's attention, we had last week on July 10, a front page article in The Hill talking about this.

The concerns with this clause, I know that this program, TSA is going to roll this TWIC card program out on September 1. I would hope that our security is of such importance to us that we would not weaken this program.

We know that the security of our ports is important. We want to make certain that the workers that we are sending in to these ports have gone through the appropriate clearances. We know that these are critical and sensitive areas. Why would we want to give a card to someone who has been convicted of crimes such as treason, espionage, sedition or murder?

I do not think that the American people want to see those individuals inspecting the cargo that's coming into these ports. We hear so much about security and food security, the issues that surround that. We are hearing about the security of human trafficking that is going through our ports. For goodness sakes, we want to be certain that the people that are walking into those ports to work every day are not convicted of these serious crimes.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman from Mississippi spoke of the compromise language, and the compromise language does not give our TSA the tool in its toolbox that it needs. Indeed, the compromise language would weaken that tool that they need in that toolbox to be certain that they are giving Americans the certainty that they want to view our Nation's ports security with. They want to know that certainly the people that are coming into those ports have our Nation's best interests at heart. And I fully believe that they do not want individuals who are convicted of these crimes of treason, espionage, sedition, murder and, further, interim disqualifying crimes such as smuggling, arson, kidnapping or robbery to be in there watching the cargo and the transportation that comes into our ports and maritime facilities. Certainly, this is a regulation that TSA uses now with our truck drivers who are moving hazardous material. So the compromise language would take a tool out of that toolbox that TSA uses to give Americans the certainty that they are doing their best.

Now, with respect to the question from the gentlelady from Texas, and I appreciate the hard work that she does at the Homeland Security Committee, but this would provide only a 7-year lookback, and I think that that is important to note in that screening process. But at the same time, Mr. Speaker, we want to be certain that screening is thorough, that it is complete, and that there is certainty given to the American public.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, the gentleman was just making his point, and in part of that he is right, but the important part of this is that what we have to do is be certain that a Secretary doesn't delete these provisions. And if you are going to give them that flexibility and if they delete it, then you have that hole that is there. So, because of that, we need it in statute to be sure that it is not altered.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

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Mrs. BLACKBURN. Mr. Speaker, you know, the appeals and waivers process was put in place for a reason, and that is why it is there, and that's why you've got the look-back provision and why it is stated as such.

Again, I will reemphasize the point. We don't want to do something that is going to weaken a tool that is in the TSA toolbox for being certain that we have the necessary security at our ports; that we know who is there and we know the reasons they are there, that we know that they have the appropriate clearances for being there.

And with all due respect to the chairman and the chairwoman who have worked on this legislation, our wording here, acceding to the language that passed over in the Senate, 94-2, would be certain that we have in statute something that is going to give our citizens the security that we have done our job.

It is the responsibility of this body to be certain that we have this national security interest at heart for the people of this good Nation, and certainly this language is one step in so doing.

And at this time, Mr. Speaker, if the gentleman from Mississippi has no further speakers and is ready to yield back, then I will do so. But I want to be certain I have the right to close on this.

Mr. Speaker, I will reserve at this point.

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