Senate and House approve the amendments.
The SAFE Act passed in the Senate by a vote of 98-0 on September 14th, including all of the Senate’s amendments. On September 28th, as the House was appointing its delegation to the conference committee, Representative Thompson of Mississippi offerred a motion to instruct conferees, moving that the House delegation be instructed to agree to the following provisions of the Senate amendment:
(1) Title V (relating to the Rail Security Act of 2006).
(2) Title VI (relating to the National Alert System).
(3) Title VII (relating to mass transit security).
(4) Title IX (relating to improved motor carrier, bus, and hazardous material security).
(5) The following sections of title XI:
(A) Section 1101 (relating to certain TSA personnel limitations not to apply).
(B) Section 1102 (relating to the Rural Policing Institute).
(C) Section 1103 (relating to evacuation in emergencies).
(D) Section 1104 (relating to health and safety during disasters).
(E) Section 1116 (relating to methamphetamine and methamphetamine precursor chemicals).
Thompson spoke in support of his motion:
By passing this motion, we will ensure that the House conferees take seriously our Nation’s efforts to secure the national transportation infrastructure. We have seen a lot of piecemeal legislation coming out of the House of Representatives. Just last week, Republicans tried to shortchange the American people on border security by authorizing a fence without sufficient funds to build it. Some folks seem to think that piecemeal legislation will do just fine in time for the election. We have a chance here today to ensure that piecemeal and politics do not prevail over security and doing what is right by the American people. We have the choice: we can partially secure or fully secure the national transportation infrastructure. This choice should be a no-brainer. That is why I encourage this body to support this motion to instruct. This motion incorporates many of the important security measures passed by the Senate, but neglected by the House.
Among other things, Mr. Speaker, this motion would instruct conferees to support improvements to security for America’s seaports and mass transit and rail systems. We know about the very real threat to our rail and mass transit systems. We remember what happened in Tokyo, Mumbai, London, and Spain. We mourn the hundreds of innocent civilians that have been killed and wounded by terrorist attacks on a major rail system. But despite all of this, Mr. Speaker, the 109th Congress has not adequately focused on rail and public transportation security. Similarly, the administration has not yet accepted that rail and public transportation is a Federal responsibility. At a congressional hearing on March 29, Tracey Henke of DHS told Members of Congress that “aviation security by law is a Federal responsibility. That is not the case for transit security.” Quite simply, this administration has flawed vision of securing America.
The Senate has offered us a way to solve some of these issues, and the sensible thing to do is to support these solutions.
Several speakers followed Thompson, some in support and some in opposition. After a lively debate, the House voted 281-140 in favor, with 85 Republicans joining 195 Democrats in support (no Democrats voted against).
Ed Markey, as a member of the Committee on Homeland Security, was appointed to the conference committee. Markey’s office told me that he voted No in protest, for two reasons:
1. The bill doesn’t go far enough.
2. The conference committee process was ridiculous.
Although Markey was the only member of the committee to vote against it, they told me, several other members of the committee declined to sign the conference report. I called one of them, John Dingell (D-MI-15), and got the same story about what happened.
First, the committee met briefly for opening statements, then recessed. They never reconvened formally from recess. Instead, Republican members of the committee wrote the final bill without talking to the Democrats or showing them any of the text. Out: the Senate’s bipartisan amendments to turn this into a broader transport security bill. In: Senators Frist & Kyl’s online gambling prohibition, which they had previously unsuccessfully tried to attach to a military spending bill.
This is the conference report that was presented to the House and Senate to vote on the last day before going into recess, giving them no opportunity to fix it: rejecting the conference report would mean no port security bill in this session of Congress, and starting from scratch after the election. Despite their frustration, most supporters of the Senate amendments (which included a solid majority of the House) voted Yea. But Markey registered his protest by voting against, and if he had not done so, I might never have investigated it.
Republican control run amok.
Jack E. Robinson, are you listening? This is why anyone who intends to vote for Republican control does not deserve our support for Congress, no matter how good a candidate they are. Those 85 House Republicans who voted in favor of the Senate amendments – all 85 of them voted for the DeLay/Hastert/Boehner gang that replaced those amendments with an unrelated pet bill. So What’s the point of electing “moderate” Republicans?
Republican control of Congress has run amok. They are corrupt, arrogant, abusive, anti-democratic, and drunk on power. Republicans, moderate or conservative, enable this rampant abuse of power by voting for the gang Lott, Frist, and DeLay put together, and this gang writes laws at whim, undoing whatever the “moderates” might’ve accomplished. I don’t see how anyone running for Congress can even respect themselves while still intending to vote for these people to stay in control.
When we vote for the Electoral College, we don’t care about the qualifications of the electors we’re voting for, we only care which candidate for president they will elect. They are our proxy vote. More and more, Republican domination makes the Congress become the same thing – a proxy vote. Each Representative is one vote for either continued Republican abuse of power, or Democratic leadership to restore democracy to the Congress. In primaries, we can choose the best candidates, but in general elections, that one consideration must override all others.