This was a vote on the resolution or “rule” setting the terms for consideration by the House of H.R.2200, the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act. This legislation, among other things, tripled existing funding for surface transportation systems to $7.6 billion during the 2010 fiscal year, increased the funding an additional 6% for fiscal year 2011, and directed the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to adopt the policy proposed by the 9/11 Commission.
Rep. Perlmutter (D-CO), who was leading the effort to pass the rule for H.R. 2200, described that bill as “a much-needed fix to an agency tasked with maintaining security in some of our most important facilities.” He added: “(T)he urgency is clear, especially since many programs under the Transportation Security Administration have not been altered or revised since their original authorization . . . passed immediately after the attacks on September 11, 2001. Since that time, we have seen threats against our transportation systems change dramatically. We've seen attacks against rail and mass transit systems in London, Madrid and Mumbai. As a result, this legislation broadens the focus of TSA to address more than just aviation security, which, for years, received an overwhelming majority of funding and manpower.”
Perlmutter also claimed that: “(T)he bill has been developed over several months with a great amount of input from majority and minority Members, labor and business and independent analysis. The bill passed out of the Homeland Security Committee without any dissenting votes, and as it comes to the floor, 14 substantive amendments will be debated. Of those 14, eight are Republican amendments and six, obviously, are from the Democratic side.”
Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), who was managing the rule for the Republicans, said he planned to vote for H.R. 2200, but expressed concern about the rule because “the legislation was really rushed to the floor by the majority. On such an important issue as the safety of our transportation systems, one would think the majority would want the input of the very agency affected by the legislation. And yet it decided it was more important to move forward than to wait until the administration, the new administration, had selected a TSA administrator who could provide Congress the necessary input and new ideas on how Congress can improve the agency.”
Diaz-Balart complained that the Democratic majority “announced that the House would consider the Transportation Security Administration reauthorization bill the week of May 18. However, at the time of the announcement, the legislative language of the bill was nowhere to be found. The majority kept the text . . . hidden under lock and key until late on Monday, May 18. And just as they released the text, they set a hard and fast deadline of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20, for Members to submit their amendments. What this did was give Members, in effect, one business day to read the legislation that reauthorizes the TSA and draft and submit amendments.”
Diaz-Balart went on to say this procedure was not “an anomaly on the majority's part, but it's business as usual. Since the majority took power in Congress in January 2007, Members have been given an average of one business day or less to submit amendments than we did when we were in the majority.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 243-179 along almost straight party lines. All two hundred forty three “aye” votes were cast by Democrats. All one hundred and seventy-six Republicans, joined by three Democrats, voted “nay”. As a result, the House was able to move on to debate the Transportation Security Administration Authorization Act.