Senators approve shift in funding to ease airport wait times

Senators approve shift in funding to ease airport wait times
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Senate appropriators have agreed to let the Department of Homeland Security shift funding in its current budget in order to help the Transportation Security Administration ease long lines at airports.

Sen. John HoevenJohn Henry HoevenSenate drama surrounding Trump trial starts to fizzle Bottom Line The Hill's Morning Report — Schiff: Clear evidence of a quid pro quo MORE (R-N.D.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, announced Wednesday that he and ranking member Jeanne ShaheenCynthia (Jeanne) Jeanne ShaheenOvernight Health Care: Appeals court strikes down Medicaid work requirements | Pelosi's staff huddles with aides on surprise billing | Senate Dems pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Senate Democrats pressure Trump to drop ObamaCare lawsuit Trump under pressure to renew last nuke treaty with Russia MORE (D-R.H.) approved the request to shift $34 million from within the Homeland Security Department’s budget to help mitigate travel disruptions.

“Our number one priority is keeping the traveling public safe, which can and should be done without travelers waiting in security lines for hours on end,” Hoeven said in a statement.

The money will enable the TSA to accelerate the hiring and training of nearly 800 transportation security officers and provide funding for additional overtime for current officers.

“Travelers need relief,” Shaheen added. “The security of the traveling public is of utmost importance and I welcome the TSA’s request to shift more resources to improve safety and reduce unacceptably long security lines.”

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The TSA outlined a number of steps earlier Wednesday that it is taking to reduce the soaring wait times at airports, a problem that is only expected to grow with a surge in travel this summer.

Officials urged Congress to reallocate fiscal 2016 funding in order to pay for overtime for security screening officers and fulfill other “critical short-term needs.”
 
House appropriators must now sign off on the request before the shift is complete.

Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), chairman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations subcommittee, said Wednesday evening that he is still assessing the request. He also came down on the TSA for not planning more responsibly in the first place.

The TSA has cut its staff in recent years, anticipating that its PreCheck program would help expedite the normal screening process, but not enough passengers have enrolled.

“I’m pleased [DHS] Secretary [Jeh] Johnson is trying to mitigate long lines at airports, and the negative impacts they have on the traveling public,” Carter said in a statement. “However, common sense and historical trends tell us air travel will increase during the summer months and when the economy improves, and TSA has simply failed to plan responsibly.”