Following another Thanksgiving travel period with the Transportation Security Administration subjecting travelers to infuriating harassment, the House of Representatives leadership has scheduled for House floor consideration Tuesday three bills that will tinker with the TSA while allowing the harassment to continue. The three bills are the TSA Loose Change Act (HR 1095), the Transportation Security Acquisition Reform Act (HR 2719), and the Aviation Security Stakeholder Participation Act (HR 1204)
All three bills are scheduled for consideration under suspension of the rules—a process generally reserved for noncontroversial legislation. Because bills considered under suspension of the rules are not subject to amendments on the House floor, the House Republican and Democrat leadership have enured there will be no debate or vote on amendments that would end or significantly restrict the TSA harassment.
Up first on the House's suspension schedule is HR 1095. The bill directs the TSA to start transferring money left behind at TSA checkpoints to nonprofit organizations that operate places for military members and their families to rest and recuperate at United States airports.
HR 1095 arguably provides an improvement over the current law that allows the TSA to use the money for its own operations. But, the bill does nothing to reduce the TSA's main source of money—US government allocations. Also, by throwing some "loose change"—about a half million dollars a year according the the House Homeland Security Committee report on the bill—to nonprofit organizations, the legislation risks creating a new special interest supporting maintaining and expanding the TSA harassment. The committee report notes that the bill's requirements have been written such that the United Service Organizations (USO) is the only nonprofit currently qualified to receive the money.
Next up, HR 2719 directs the TSA to take actions including developing and regularly updating a "strategic multiyear technology acquisition plan," making reports to House and Senate committees regarding certain technology acquisition intentions, creating "baseline requirements" for technology acquisitions, and using equipment in the TSA's inventory before acquiring more of the equipment.
HR 2719 does nothing to restrict the TSA's daily agenda of detaining, questioning, and searching people for no cause whatsoever, much less the probable cause required under the Fourth Amendment of the US Constitution. Neither does the bill limit the TSA's regular seizures of people's property. Rather, HR 2719 attempts to ensure the TSA employs technology more efficiently while engaging in these constitutional violations.
Finally, HR 1204 offers a classic legislative solution: it creates a committee. In particular, the bill creates an Aviation Security Advisory Committee and at least four subcommittees that will consult with and deliver periodic reports to the TSA.
If the committee HR 1204 creates were charged with developing plans for reducing the activities of the TSA or increasing respect for individual rights, some good may come from the legislation. Unfortunately, the bill instead directs the committee to develop, at the TSA's request, recommendations for improvements in aviation security. Further, the TSA would appoint every member of the committee. The bill appears to advance the kind of bureaucracy-building exercise you typically see in growing government agencies.
Congress earns its low approval rating through legislative schedules like this. With many Americans having just experienced their Thanksgiving TSA harassment and dreading another round at Christmas, cheers would sound across America if the House passed legislation terminating or, at least, greatly restricting the TSA assaults on our rights. Instead, the House's bipartisan leadership is demonstrating its allegiance to the TSA and the agency's abusive activities.