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Homeland Security Committee Passes Bill Addressing Many Security Gaps At U.S. Seaports

Although Rejection of Critical Amendments Would Have Made Ports More Secure

Today, the Committee on Homeland Security marked up H.R. 4954, the Security and Accountability For Every Port Act (SAFE Port Act). Congressman Thompson issued the following statement regarding the markup:

“Today’s passage of the SAFE Port Act by this Committee was a positive step in safeguarding our nation’s ports. However, I was disappointed that procedural games undermined the bipartisan spirit that the bill was crafted under. The American people deserve a comprehensive port security bill, not one that leaves our nation’s ports vulnerable to terrorist attacks simply to score a few political points.”

Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Economic Security, Infrastructure Protection and Cybersecurity added: “This legislation is the culmination of more than two years of work by the Democrats to press for increased security at our nation’s ports. The SAFE Port Act is not a perfect one and more can be done. I believe it is a solid first step in improving port security.”

Members of the Committee offered several key amendments aimed at strengthening the proposed legislation but all were rejected. Among them:

An amendment offered by Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA) would have required that within the next 5 years, 100% of cargo be scanned before entering U.S. Ports.

Rep. Markey stated: “Today House Republicans turned their backs on the lessons at the heart of the 9/11 tragedy when they struck down an amendment which would close a dangerous loophole that remains in our port security by blocking my amendment which would provide 100% inspection of all cargo containers before they arrive at U.S. ports. The time to act is now, not after Al Qaeda sneaks a nuclear weapon into an American city by exploiting this glaring loophole. This nearly party line vote was a victory for powerful special interests over the security of the American public.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler, who first raised the idea of 100% scanning in his “Sail Only if Scanned (S.O.S.) Act” added: “I was disappointed that the Markey amendment was not adopted today. It’s absolutely clear that we need to scan 100 percent of U.S.-bound containers for radiological weapons. We will continue to push to make 100-percent scanning the policy of the United States.” Mr. Nadler’s legislation was previously accepted in the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee as a standalone bill.

Two amendments offered by Congressman James Langevin (D-RI) would have significantly increased the number of radiation portal monitors available to our ports for cargo scanning.

Rep. Langevin stated: “We must provide the necessary resources to detect nuclear materials at our ports and borders before it is too late. My amendments would have provided the critical funding and strategies to purchase and deploy our last best chance of preventing a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb from entering our country.”

Another amendment offered by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) would have created a 6 month moratorium to conduct port operations on contracts involving countries, organizations or individuals identified as a terrorist sponsored entity.

Rep. Jackson Lee stated: “Rejecting this amendment dealt a serious blow to our nation’s port security. My amendment would have put in place a crucial pause in the commercial contracting of the operations of our nation’s seaports and ports of entry until we have closely examined the selection process and discarded any outlying concerns.

Please contact Dena Graziano or Todd Levett at (202) 226-2616.

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS)

Rep. Bennie G. Thompson

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