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Rogers Floor Statement on H.R. 1140

March 4, 2020

Rogers Floor Statement on H.R. 1140

(Click here to watch Rogers deliver his opposition to 1140)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), House Homeland Security Committee ranking member, today delivered a statement on the house floor on H.R. 1140, “Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act.”

Rogers remarks, as prepared for delivery.

Mr. Chairman, I rise in strong opposition to H.R. 1140.

After the terror attacks of 9/11, Congress recognized that in order for TSA to successfully carry out its critical mission, it had to accommodate the agency’s unique operational needs.

That’s why when Congress passed the Aviation and Transportation Security Act, we gave TSA one-of-a-kind authorities to respond to evolving threats. 

TSA has used these authorities over time to remain flexible and accountable to the needs of a diverse transportation system, where each airport faces a unique threat landscape.

These flexibilities are key to keeping the public safe.

That’s why I am very concerned about the impact this bill will have on the security of our aviation system. 

By moving the screener workforce under title 5, this bill would eliminate many of those critical flexibilities.

For example, current law allows for the immediate termination of employees that intentionally allow guns, knives, or explosives through a checkpoint. 

Under this bill, that employee could remain on the TSA payroll for months or even longer.

Current law allows TSA to set new security requirements, such as enhanced passenger screening, when intelligence indicates credible threats.

How new security requirements are implemented could be subject to negotiation with the union if this bill were to become law.

Right now, TSA has the flexibility to move screeners between checkpoints to alleviate long lines and ensure security.

The legislation before us restricts that flexibility.

In addition to the impact on security, I am also concerned with how this bill proposes to transition the screener workforce.

I don’t think it’s fair for Congress to dictate which union gets to represent 45,000 screeners. 

But that’s just what this bill does. 

The bill sets in law the exclusive bargaining agent for the screeners, and requires TSA to immediately negotiate with them. 

Under this bill, there is no intervening union election. 

Screeners never get a chance to exercise their Constitutional right to choose their representation.
I think that’s wrong.

Beyond the consequences for aviation security and the fundamental questions of fairness, this bill does little to improve the pay and working conditions for screeners.

In fact, TSA screeners will lose benefits under this proposal. 

If this bill became law, – Screeners lose the ability to trade shifts with one another, or donate accrued leave to their fellow workers; Certain overtime pay would be prohibited; Career milestone bonuses could no longer be offered; and Many veterans would no longer qualify for hiring preferences.

The CBO estimates that this bill will cost $1.8 billion over the next five years.That’s a 20 percent increase in the TSA’s current budget.

That’s a tremendous cost for such little return.

In May 2019, a Blue-Ribbon Panel led by Clinton and Obama Administration human capital experts, strongly argued against moving screeners under title 5 as this bill would do. 

The panel rightly pointed out that under current law, the TSA can pay screeners more than they would make under title 5.

That’s the real irony with this bill. 

It purports to improve pay and benefits for screeners, but under current law, screeners can be paid more and receive better benefits than this bill provides.

I have long advocated for increased pay for the screener workforce. 

And I agree with the Blue-Ribbon Panel that TSA should build a pay system superior to that of the GS schedule.

The problem has always been funding. 

Past administrations haven’t requested funding for increased screener pay and past Congresses haven’t provided it.

Fortunately, the President’s fiscal year 2021 budget requests an increase in funding to provide raises and bonuses for screeners.

If the majority truly wants to fix the problem, they should work with us on a bill to fund these pay raises and implement the recommendations of the bipartisan Blue Ribbon Panel.

That’s the bill that should be on the floor today.

Instead, they have, yet again, decided to move a partisan messaging bill that rewards their political supporters. 

This time it comes at the expense of the taxpayer and our security.

Like the rest of them, this partisan messaging bill will never become law. 

The Senate won’t take it up.

The President has said he will veto it. 

This is a waste of our time. 

At some point soon, I hope the majority rejects this partisan approach to legislating, and works with us on our nation’s priorities.

Closing Statement:

I would like to make Mr. Thompson aware that I have no further speakers and I am prepared to close.

I yield myself the balance of my time.

Madam/Mr. Chairman, I want close by thanking the men and women of TSA.

The debate we’re having today does not impact the sincere appreciation we have for the tremendous job they do each and every day.

While we may disagree on the best way forward, I think we all share the same goal of improving screener pay and morale.

We understand how important that is to the workforce and to our security.

Unfortunately, this bill will do a lot more to undermine that goal than it will to achieve it.

I urge my colleagues to oppose the bill.