What: All Issues : Labor Rights : Rights of Individuals in the Workplace : H.R. 1401 (Rail and Public Transportation Security Act)/On Passage (2007 house Roll Call 201)
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H.R. 1401 (Rail and Public Transportation Security Act)/On Passage
house Roll Call 201     Mar 27, 2007
Progressive Position:
Yea
Progressive Result:
Win

This was the final vote on legislation to authorize over $6 billion to improve bus and rail security in the United States.

Hailed by one of its drafters, Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), as "an important milestone" in protecting the countries transit systems, the bill would authorize $2.5 billion for rail, $3.4 billion for urban mass transit and $87 million for buses over the next four years. Many Republicans complained that the bill was potentially wasteful, and in the words of the ranking Republican on the Transportation panel, Rep. John Mica (Fla.), would distribute funds "willy-nilly."

Democrats said the bill would make the country safer, as it would require the Homeland Security Department to develop regulations for rail transportation of toxic materials and require operators to assess alternative routes as well as extend whistleblower protection to transportation employees.

Republicans were critical of whistleblower protections included in the legislation. The House already passed similar protections barring retribution against employees who expose fraud, waste and corruption in an earlier bill that had yet to make it to the president's desk. The White House threatened to veto this legislation on account of the whistleblower provision, claiming that it would undermine the government's ability to protect information related to national security.

The legislation was a marker for the House's position on transportation security in anticipation of a House-Senate conference committee on broader legislation to enact recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Putting this legislation to a vote was the Democratic leadership's way of getting the House on record with a majority-backed position on transportation security so that the chamber's representatives at the upcoming House-Senate conference committee could use the fact that the majority of the House supported the approach outlined in the bill as a negotiating point in talks over the larger 9/11 Commission legislation. The Senate version of that bill (S. 4) would authorize a total of $4 billion for transportation security, and the intent of this legislation was to give House negotiators firm footing to say that the House supported more funding for transit security.

The legislation passed by a vote of 299-124, and thus the House approved funding for more than $6 billion in improvements to rail and bus transportation. Seventy-four Republicans joined all 225 Democrats present in passing the measure.

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