House rejects proposal to strip TSA screeners of policeman-like uniforms

Blackburn said TSA had spent more than $1 million in taxpayer money on badges alone since 2009. Worse, she said, evidence is mounting that TSA screeners often abuse the impression that they are officers with authority, and noted some cases of rape and other abuse of passengers that has led to dozens of arrests.

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"These are reasons enough we need to take them out of their uniforms, disallow the uniforms and put them back to their job title of airport security screener," Blackburn said in Thursday debate.

She added that the American Alliance of Airport Police Officers favors her amendment and are "tired of the TSA's mission creep."

But the House voted against her amendment 131-282, with the help of dozens of Republicans and most Democrats. During debate, Democrats said the language would needlessly put down TSA screeners.

"Why would we do this? What an insult to these people," Rep. David Price (D-Ga.) said of the proposal.

"What is a badge? It is a dignity that is allowed to those who are on the front lines of the nation's security," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said.

Blackburn said in response that TSA has embellished the uniforms of screeners over the years — and even calls them "officers" — even though they receive far less training than actual law enforcement officers, only about 80 hours.

She also reminded Democrats that they are not allowed to detain anyone, and need airport police to do that.

Blackburn's amendment was one of several roll-call votes late Thursday. Another of her proposals would have prevented funds from being spent on TSA screening operations outside airports, but that amendment was rejected in a 204-210 vote.

TSA is just a part of the DHS spending bill; the House disposed of several other amendments Thursday that dealt with other bureaus within the department. Other amendment vote results follow:

• From Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), to prohibit funds to enforce an executive order that mandates the Department of Homeland Security communicate in a language other than English in certain cases. Passed 224-189.

• From King, to prohibit funds to enforce "Morton Memos" concerning administrative amnesty. Passed 238-175.

• From Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.), to prohibit funds from being used to terminate the 287 (g) program under which state and local law enforcement is delegated authority for immigration enforcement activities within their jurisdictions. Passed 250-164.

• From Rep. Robert Turner (R-N.Y.), to prohibit more than $20 million from being made available for surface transportation security inspectors. Exempts National Explosives Detection Canine Training Program and Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response Teams. Failed 101-314.

• From Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), to cut accounts by 2 percent across the board, with some exceptions. Failed 99-316.

The following additional amendments were accepted by voice vote:

• From Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-Minn.), to prohibit funds for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to release or to provide alternative forms of detention for criminal aliens.

• From Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.), to prohibit funds from going to cities and towns that do not enforce federal immigration law.

• From Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), to bar the purchase of vehicles that don't meet fuel efficient standards.

• From Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), to bar the purchase of unmanned aerial vehicles.

• From Price, to bar the use of funds in contravention of immigration laws.

And the following were rejected by voice vote:

• From Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), to prohibit funds from restricting access to the Screening Partnership Program at TSA, to ensure airports aren't restricted from private company screening.

• From Broun, to prohibit funds for the Behavior Detection Officers or the Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques (SPOT) Program.