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May 27, 2016

Bipartisan Bill to Ease Congestion at TSA Screening Checkpoints

(WASHINGTON) – At the start of a busy travel weekend, Ranking Members of the House Committees on Transportation and Infrastructure Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Homeland Security Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), along with Representative Bob Dold (R-IL), introduced bipartisan legislation that would help ease congestion and long lines at TSA screening checkpoints at airports.

In 2013, Congress began diverting one-third of the revenue collected from the airline passenger security fees to offset unrelated government spending. The FASTER Act, H.R. 5340, would ensure that passenger security fees only go towards aviation security and prevent Congress from raiding the funds in the future.

“The airport security checkpoint wait times crisis did not occur overnight,” said Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Ranking Member on the Homeland Security Committee. “To make sustained and measurable improvements, TSA needs an infusion of resources to be able to invest in its people and technology. TSA cannot continue to rely on temporary band-aids by moving around limited homeland security dollars. The fact that each year over a billion dollars of the fees TSA collects from every flyer is being diverted away from aviation security is a big part of the problem.  The bipartisan bill we are introducing today will allow TSA to retain the fees it collects so it can properly staff airports around the country, operate as effectively as possible, and secure the American public.”

“At airports across the country, people are forced to wait in long security lines like cattle, causing many to miss their flight,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. “To add insult to injury, funding to help fix the wait times exists – it’s just being diverted. I doubt most passengers know that a portion of the security fee they pay with every flight is being used for other purposes. With peak travel season starting this weekend, Congress needs to direct all of the designated funds towards the intended purpose in order to improve the efficiency of airport screening and keep passengers safe.”

“The unnecessarily long lines for screening at O’Hare and Midway are absolutely unacceptable and have been caused in no small part because a bill that was passed in 2013 played political games with TSA’s budget,” Rep. Bob Dold said. “9/11 security fees being charged to airline passengers should be used only to make flying a safe and burden-free experience, but right now the government is taking money from passengers to make up for years of unrelated and out-of-control spending. Our bill puts passengers before politics to ensure that there are no more missed flights because of long lines and political gimmicks.”

In Fiscal Year 2015, passengers paid $3.5 billion in aviation security fees. However, only $2.3 billion of this amount was used to help offset the $6.8 billion cost of TSA’s aviation security expenses. In total, under current law, $15.8 billion will be diverted from TSA aviation security screening to the General Fund.

While this money has been diverted, the number of airline travelers has increased substantially. Because of TSA staffing shortages and increased security measures, airport security lines across the country have become longer, with passengers sometimes waiting in line for hours or missing flights. The FASTER Act would redirect over $14 billion in funding back to the TSA, so they can begin to address personnel shortages, decrease passenger wait times, and ensure a more efficient screening experience.

“To provide TSA with additional resources, Congress should immediately end the practice of diverting $1.25 billion this year and $15 billion over the course of the decade away from TSA’s core mission,” Airports Council International-North America President and CEO Kevin M. Burke said.  “Our passengers deserve better, especially considering they pay for civil aviation security services through the 9/11 Passenger Security Fee every time they buy a plane ticket.  They should be getting their money's worth instead of subsidizing other federal spending.  The bipartisan DeFazio-Thompson-Dold bill is the right solution.”

"We applaud the leadership of Representatives DeFazio, Thompson and Dold for introducing this legislation that ensures that 9/11 fees are used as they were intended--to pay for passenger security," said Nicholas E. Calio, President and CEO of Airlines for America. "There is nothing more important than the safety and security of our passengers and crewmembers, and we urge Congress to pass this legislation that will direct resources to be spent to more effectively and efficiently protect the traveling public."

Congress has recently approved Homeland Security’s request to reprogram $34 million to the TSA for the expedited hiring of screeners and for overtime pay for current security staff; however, the funds are not enough to make up the significant backlog. The Department of Homeland Security also requested an additional $28 million late Thursday night.

Click here to read a summary of the FASTER Act.

Homeland Security Committee Hearing on TSA

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Media contacts:
Beth Schoenbach (DeFazio): (202) 225-6416
Adam Comis (Thompson): (202)225-9978
Brad Stewart (Dold): (202) 302-8283