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7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports

7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports
© Greg Nash

Seven GOP senators are calling on the State Department to continue renewing passports despite travel advisories and lockdowns put in place due to the pandemic. 

The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Mike PompeoMike PompeoWhy the US needs to clear the way for international justice Tim Scott to participate in GOP event in Iowa Progressive lawmaker to introduce bill seeking more oversight of Israel assistance MORE, was spearheaded by Republican Sen. James LankfordJames Paul LankfordRubio and bipartisan group of senators push to make daylight saving time permanent Senate inches toward COVID-19 vote after marathon session Ron Johnson grinds Senate to halt, irritating many MORE (Okla.), who last week called for the department to resume passport applications after learning it paused the application process for 1.6 million Americans when it stopped taking new applications March 19.

The Republican lawmakers, Sens. Lankford, John CornynJohn CornynIntelligence leaders push for mandatory breach notification law Senate GOP signal they won't filibuster debate of hate crimes bill Application portal for venue grants down for five days with no updates MORE (Texas), David Perdue (Ga.), Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerNBA names Obama alum to be director for social justice initiatives Georgia's top election official looks to shake political drama Collins hits Warnock after All-Star Game pulled: 'Thanks for nothing' MORE (Ga.), Kevin CramerKevin John CramerBiden administration faces big decision on whether to wade into Dakota Access fight OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Supreme Court declines to hear challenge to Obama marine monument designation | Interior reverses course on tribal ownership of portion of Missouri river | White House climate adviser meets with oil and gas companies Senate GOP pushes back on list of participants in oil and gas leasing forum MORE (N.D.), John BoozmanJohn Nichols BoozmanSenate GOP opens door to earmarks Arkansas governor quietly bucking GOP's dive into culture wars Trump allies line up ahead of potentially bruising primaries MORE (Ark.) and Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyModerates' 0B infrastructure bill is a tough sell with Democrats Sinema, Romney propose bill to tackle student loan debt Romney, Sinema teaming up on proposal to raise minimum wage MORE (Utah), called the policy "unacceptable,” "inadequate" and “slow and inefficient.”

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“We hope you will take steps to correct and improve this plan to ensure the Department is not partially responsible for stifling international commerce at a time when our nation is eager to resume economic activity,” the lawmakers wrote.

On the State Department’s website, the agency claims people who submitted applications before operations were limited on March 19 will experience “significant delays of several months.”

Only people who can prove they are facing a “life-or-death emergency” can apply for a passport under the current travel advisories in place by the department and public health officials. Applicants must show proof of “serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family” to be considered.

In a statement to ABC News, the agency said that the sensitive nature of the passport application process makes it infeasible to process them remotely. The department plans to begin reopening their offices in phases, with the first phase still not underway. 

"Processing passport applications requires us to review sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and other personal records, and to physically print and mail passport books and cards back to applicants. This means that our staff are not able to process passport applications from home," the agency told ABC news. 

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In a statement to The Hill, the agency said that the sensitive nature of the passport application process makes them infeasible to process them remotely. The department plans to begin reopening their offices in phases. However, the  first phase has yet to take place. 

“Passport applications must be adjudicated in our facilities to protect customers’ personally identifiable information and ensure the integrity of the application process. We maintain the highest standards of security and privacy protection for our customers, and must secure sensitive documents like birth certificates and naturalization certificates in our offices,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill. 

Passports applications must also be processed in-person because staff must physically print and mail passport books and cards to applicants. The agency’s offices across the country will open on different dates depending on the status of the pandemic where they are located.

Updated 5:07 p.m.