Senator DeMint Uses Botched Bombing to Attack Organized Labor

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McClatchy Newspapers

Senator DeMint Uses Botched Bombing to Attack Organized Labor

Who's Running the TSA? No One, Thanks to Sen. Jim DeMint

by
Margaret Talev

Soft on terror, but tough on unions. DeMint's objection creates a procedural hurdle that could take three days of debate and test votes to overcome, or could potentially be limited if Democrats offered DeMint a compromise. No one was taking conciliatory stance on Monday, however. One called DeMint's opposition "disgraceful."(AP)

WASHINGTON — An attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from
Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day would be all-consuming for the
administrator of the Transportation Security Administration — if there
were one.

The post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up
President Barack Obama's nominee in opposition to the prospect of TSA
workers joining a labor union.

As
al Qaida claimed responsibility Monday for the thwarted attack and
President Barack Obama made a public statement about it, Democrats
urged DeMint to drop his objection and allow quick confirmation of
nominee Erroll Southers, a counterterrorism expert, when the Senate
reconvenes in three weeks.

Obama,
speaking from Hawaii, where he and his family are vacationing, told
Americans, "We will not rest until we find all who were involved and
hold them accountable."

Obama warned anyone plotting against the
U.S. from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia or elsewhere that he
doesn't intend to rest at simply strengthening defense.

The
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee announced a
hearing to be set for next month to examine how Umar Farouk
Abdulmutallab, a 23-year-old Nigerian whose name was in a terrorism
database, boarded a plane with explosive material.

"Why aren't
airline passengers flying into the U.S. checked against the broadest
terrorist database and why isn't whole body scanning technology that
can detect explosives in wider use?" said committee chairman Sen.
Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent.

Meanwhile, Florida
Republican Rep. John Mica said in a statement that the TSA had grown
lost and bloated in bureaucracy and called for a review.

Mica
also said Congress "must change the process by which TSA administrators
serve. There has been no TSA administrator for nearly a year and the
next one will be the fifth in eight years. Running a security agency
with a revolving door is a recipe for failure."

Janet Napolitano,
the head of the Department of Homeland Security, of which the TSA is
part, made the rounds of morning television news programs on Monday,
backing away from her initial stance that the system had worked in
averting attack.

She told NBC that "our system did not work in
this instance. No one is happy or satisfied with that. An extensive
review is under way."

Southers, a former FBI special agent, is
the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department assistant chief for
homeland security and intelligence. He also is the associate director
of the University of Southern California's Center for Risk and Economic
Analysis of Terrorism Events, and he served as a deputy director of
homeland security for California Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Two
Senate committees have given Southers their bipartisan blessing. An
acting administrator is in place pending his confirmation.

Marshall
McClain, the president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers
Association, said that the Senate should have acted sooner to confirm
Southers.

"Friday's terrorist attack on U.S. aviation makes it
all the more imperative that there be no further delays in filling this
crucial position," he said.

DeMint said in a statement that the
attempted attack "is a perfect example of why the Obama administration
should not unionize the TSA." He wants Southers to clarify his stand on
unionizing the TSA, a shift that Democrats support.

Without
collective bargaining, DeMint said, the TSA has "flexibility to make
real-time decisions that allowed it to quickly improve security
measures in response to this attempted attack."

If organized
labor got involved, DeMint said, union bosses would have the power "to
veto or delay future security improvements at our airports."

He
urged Obama to "re-think" supporting unionizing the TSA "and put the
interests of American travelers ahead of organized labor."

DeMint also wants a Senate floor debate and roll call votes, not confirmation by consent as the Democrats sought.

Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hadn't scheduled a floor vote for
Southers before the Senate left town on Christmas Eve.

Reid
spokesman Jim Manley said Monday that the majority leader is working
with the White House to get Southers confirmed "as quickly as possible"
and charged that "Republican obstructionism has prevented TSA from
having the leadership in place that the organization deserves."

DeMint
spokesman Wesley Denton said that Obama didn't nominate Southers until
September, and he charged that Reid "has been too busy trading earmarks
for votes on health care" to deal with DeMint's concerns.

DeMint's
objection creates a procedural hurdle that could take three days of
debate and test votes to overcome, or could potentially be limited if
Democrats offered DeMint a compromise. No one was taking conciliatory
stance on Monday, however. Manley called DeMint's opposition
"disgraceful."

Lesley Clark contributed to this article.

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