House passes bill to enhance aviation security overseas

House passes bill to enhance aviation security overseas
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The House unanimously passed legislation on Tuesday that would bolster security at overseas airports that have direct flights to the United States.

Lawmakers agreed by voice vote to back the bill, which would direct the Transportation Security Administration to establish a plan to enhance passenger and airline safety at Last Point of Departure (LPD) airports, or foreign airports with nonstop flights to the U.S.

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The measure, H.R. 4698, was brought up under a suspension of the rules – an expedited process that requires a two-thirds majority for passage.

Similar aviation security language was tucked into the Senate-passed reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration.

There has been a bipartisan urge to beef up airport security following the deadly terrorist attacks on a Brussels airport and subway station last month.

But if the House is unable to agree on how to advance FAA reauthorization legislation and ends up clearing another short-term patch, Congress may move ahead with a more piecemeal approach to pass individual aviation security bills.

The House measure from Rep. John KatkoJohn Michael KatkoHouse passes bill to fund overtime pay for Secret Service agents Poll: Voters in vulnerable GOP districts oppose tax bill FCC's net neutrality repeal sparks backlash MORE (R-N.Y.) was approved by the Homeland Security Committee on March 23.

Katko said the bill was crafted in response to a series of high-profile security lapses, including a gun-smuggling operation aided by airport insiders and the October 2015 downing of Metrojet Flight 9268.

“Terrorists recognize that it is easier to attack an aircraft destined for the United States from overseas, rather than travel to the United States and then plot a domestic attack,” Katko said.

“Now, with the horrific attacks in Belgium against two transportation modes, including aviation, it has been reiterated that we must not wait for such attacks to occur against us again,” he said.  “We must be as determined to mitigate the threat as extremists are in perpetrating their attacks against us.”

The legislation would allow TSA to donate security equipment to foreign LPD airports and require the agency to assess whether it can enter into a mutual agreement with a foreign government to conduct inspections of foreign airports without prior notice.

A section was also added to the bill that directs TSA to ask its independent Aviation Security Advisory Committee to develop recommendations for making the passenger screening process more efficient and effective, such as through considering new technology.