House panel approves TSA funding cuts

House panel approves TSA funding cuts

A House panel approved legislation on Wednesday evening that would cut funding for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

In a voice vote, the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security approved a fiscal 2018 spending bill that provides $7.2 billion for the TSA — a nearly $160 million decrease from current levels.

Appropriators proposed a funding bump for the agency last year after the TSA cut back on screening officers, leading to massive wait times at airport security checkpoints around the country. Congress allowed the TSA to shift around money in its budget in order to deal with the line crisis.

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This year’s spending legislation maintains full funding for transportation security officers, privatized screening operations and passenger and baggage screening equipment, according to a summary sheet. It also includes $152 million to hire, train and deploy 1,047 canine teams to help speed up the screening process.

But the bill would not raise TSA passenger security fees, which President Trump proposed hiking from $5.60 to $6.60 for each connecting flight in his fiscal 2018 budget request.

Republicans and Democrats alike have panned the idea in hearings this year, while airlines have long urged lawmakers to avoid raising ticket fees, which they say would discourage travel and place an added burden on passengers.

Congress doubled the fee in 2014, but a portion of the revenue collected from the fee is diverted to other parts of the budget not related to airport security.

The House spending bill also would protect a marketing program that promotes tourism in the United States. Trump called for completely gutting the program, known as “Brand USA”, in order to funnel more money toward border security.

The marketing program is a public-private partnership that was set up by Congress in 2011 as part of an effort to bill the U.S. as a top tourist destination for international travelers.

The program’s marketing initiatives are responsible for bringing in 3 million international visitors, generating $21 billion in business sales and supporting nearly 50,000 jobs per year, according to Oxford Economics.

Trump’s plan to kill the program has sparked major concern among travel advocates, who were already worried that the administration’s efforts to clamp down on foreign travel into the country would dampen U.S. tourism and global business.