Rogers Statement at Markup

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, delivered the following opening statement at a markup today.

Rogers Opening Statement:

I want to thank the Chairman and his staff for working with us on this important markup.

Many of the bills we will consider today present effective solutions to important homeland security issues.  I hope we can incorporate these and other bills into a robust DHS authorization product in the next few months.

I wanted to briefly highlight the Republican bills on today’s agenda.

H.R. 5679 offered by Mr. Katko will help ensure steady and competent leadership at CISA by setting a statutory five-year term for its director.  I thank the subcommittee Ranking Member for his leadership on this issue.

H.R. 5670 offered by Mr. Bishop will enhance aviation security by improving the level of communication and coordination between the TSA and aviation stakeholders. I thank the gentleman for his strong work on this important issue.

H.R. 5678 offered by our newest Member, Mr. Van Drew, will formally authorize the DHS office of privacy and strengthen the Department’s privacy policies.  I commend the gentlemen for his efforts on this critical issue.

I’m happy to support these three Republican bills, as well as –

Legislation authored by the Chairman to improve coordination between DHS and our nation’s HBCUs;

The bill from Ms. Torres-Small and Mr. Crenshaw requiring a plan to improve screening at our ports; and

Legislation from Mr. Langevin and Mr. Katko authorizing critically needed administrative subpoena authority for CISA.

I encourage all Members to support these bills.

Rogers Statement on HR 1140:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  The Transportation Security Administration’s mission is to protect the traveling public by securing America’s transportation systems. 

Since 2001, Congress has recognized that in order for TSA to successfully carry out its critical mission, it had to accommodate the agency’s unique operational needs.

When we passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, we gave TSA one-of-a-kind authorities to respond to evolving threats.

We understood that flexibility was the key to an effective TSA.

That’s why I am very concerned about the impact this bill will have on the security of our aviation system. 

By moving the screener workforce under title 5, this bill would eliminate many of those critical flexibilities.

For example, current law allows for a one-step removal process for employees guilty of significant misconduct, including those facing criminal prosecution. 

TSA is empowered to immediately remove an employee if he or she intentionally allows guns or explosives through a checkpoint.  Under this bill, that employee could remain on the TSA payroll for years.

Current law allows the TSA to move screeners between duty stations to alleviate crowds and long lines.  Under this bill, that authority could be curtailed.

Under current law, TSA can impose new security requirements, such as enhanced passenger screening when intelligence indicates credible threats.

Under this bill, how those new security requirements are implemented could be subject to negotiation with the union.

In addition to the impact on security, I am also concerned with how this bill proposes to transition the screener workforce.

I don’t think it’s fair to dictate which union gets to represent 45,000 screeners.  But that’s just what this bill does. 

The bill sets the exclusive bargaining agent for the screeners and requires the TSA to immediately negotiate with them. 

Under this bill, there is no intervening union election.  The screeners never get a chance to exercise their Constitutional right to choose their representation.

I think that’s wrong.

Beyond the consequences for aviation security and the fundamental questions of fairness, this bill does little to improve the pay and working conditions for screeners.

In fact, TSA screeners will lose benefits under this proposal. 

If this bill became law, –

Screeners lose the ability to trade shifts with one another, or donate accrued leave to their fellow workers;

Certain overtime pay would be prohibited;

5 percent career milestone bonuses would no longer be offered; and

Veterans lose out. 

Currently veterans only have to demonstrate prior service to receive a hiring preference by the TSA.

Under this bill, veterans would have to meet much stricter requirements to become eligible.

The TSA estimates that moving the screener workforce under title 5 will cost the agency $1.2 billion over the next five years. 

That’s a tremendous cost for such little return.

In May 2019, a Blue-Ribbon Panel led by Clinton and Obama Administration human capital experts, strongly argued against moving screeners under Title 5 because it would do nothing to increase pay for screeners. 

The panel rightly pointed out that under current law, the TSA can pay screeners more than they would make under title 5.

I have long advocated for increased pay for the screener workforce.  And I agree with the Blue-Ribbon Commission that TSA should build a pay system superior to that of the GS schedule.

We should work together to implement the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission.

Finally, I want to thank the men and women of TSA.

The debate we’re having today does not impact the sincere appreciation we have for the tremendous job they do each and every day.

While we may disagree on the best way forward, I think we all share the same goal of improving screener morale.

We understand how important that is to the workforce and to our security.

Unfortunately, this bill will do more to undermine that goal than it will to achieve it. 

I urge my colleagues to oppose the bill. 

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