Members of the House Homeland Security Committee are calling on appropriators to allow the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) to shift funding in its current budget to alleviate soaring airport wait times around the country.
Senate appropriators already gave a swift stamp of approval to the TSA’s request to reprogram $34 million to beef up screening staff and mitigate long airport lines, a problem that is only expected to grow worse as travel increases this summer.
Lawmakers are now calling on Reps. John Carter (R-Texas) and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Calif.), chairman and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, to do the same.
“We are deeply concerned that this problem will grow much more severe in the coming months, creating even longer lines and wait times, disrupting travel plans for more and more passengers, and forcing more airports to consider private contracts,” Homeland Security Committee members wrote in a letter to the appropriators. “This is why we urge you to approve TSA’s request so that they can immediately begin to use this funding.”
The letter is signed by Reps. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.), ranking member on the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security, Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-N.J.) and Bill Keating (D-Mass.).
The TSA said the extra money will enable the agency to accelerate the hiring and training of nearly 800 transportation security officers, provide funding for overtime for current officers and fulfill other critical short-term needs.
Air travel is surging at a time when the TSA has cut staff, as the agency thought its PreCheck program would help expedite the normal screening process. But not enough passengers enrolled in the program, leaving the TSA understaffed and prompting some airports to consider privatizing their security operations.
A pair of senators even called on airlines to halt baggage fees this summer, claiming the fees prompt more passengers to bring carry-on luggage and cause security lines to become more clogged.
"Without charges for checking their bags, passengers will be far less likely to carry them on, which snarls screening checkpoints and slows the inspection process,” Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Ed Markey(D-Mass.) wrote in a letter to airlines.