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Public Statements

Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2013

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Mr. Chairman, I thank the gentleman from North Carolina for allowing me the time.

I have a number of thoughts on the underlying bill before us today, but I'd like to take the opportunity to discuss the Transportation Worker Identification Credential program, the TWIC program.

Earlier today, the authorizing committee, on a bipartisan basis, approved language modeled after a bill I introduced, H.R. 1105, to prevent current TWIC holders, the men and women who work in our ports, from being forced by TSA to pay for new identification cards beginning in October of this year, given the program is not fully implemented and the Department has not even issued a rule for biometric readers.

The TWIC program is focused on protecting the Nation's maritime transportation facilities and vessels by requiring maritime workers and other workers who need unescorted access to secure port facilities to obtain a biometric identification card. After initial delays, all maritime workers were required to obtain biometric TWIC cards by April 2009. The cost to workers for these cards is $132.50 per credential. To date, over 2.1 million longshoremen, truckers, merchant mariners, and rail and vessel crew members have undergone extensive homeland security and criminal background checks to secure TWICs. Even as workers raced in the spring of 2009 to obtain TWICs to continue working in our Nation's ports, TSA has been more than 2 years late in starting the reader pilots.

Our committee has been told that even under the best circumstances, final regulations are not likely to be issued until late 2014, more than 5 years beyond the date required in statute. Yet, unless Congress or the administration acts, starting October 2012, workers will have to renew the cards they were issued.

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Mr. THOMPSON of Mississippi. Thank you very much, Mr. Ranking Member.

The point I would like to make, Mr. Chairman, is that 2.1 million workers have TWIC cards. Through no fault of their own, they will be required to renew those cards unless we act.

I appreciate this legislation, acknowledging that we have to do something for those workers or, through no fault of their own, they'll have to renew a card, which is at this point, at best, a flash card. It's not really a worker identification card.

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