Gimenez Opening Statement In Transportation Security Hearing
WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R-FL), Ranking Member of the Transportation & Maritime Security Subcommittee, delivered the following opening statement in a subcommittee hearing entitled, “On the Frontlines of Turbulent Times: Workforce Perspectives on the State of Transportation Security.”
Ranking Member Gimenez’s Opening Statement (as prepared for delivery)
Thank you, Chairwoman Watson Coleman, for holding this hearing today.
As we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. transportation system is key to our economy. It truly powers our way of life. We are finally, after 18 difficult months, seeing a resurgence of our travel and tourism industry.
My home city of Miami is one of the top destinations for travelers and our airport has already seen domestic leisure travel at pre-pandemic levels. International bookings are up to only 50 percent from 2019, but are projected to increase substantially with the recent opening of international flights in and out of Miami.
As we enter the busy holiday travel season, we must ensure the safety and security of the transportation workforce and the traveling public. I’m concerned that TSA is not adequately staffed to handle the rise in travelers that we will see in airports across the country over the next few weeks.
In addition, the Biden Administration’s mandate that all federal employees be fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by next week – November 22nd – could contribute to a lack of staffing at airports. The TSA workforce has shown their dedication to our Nation day in and out, and now they’re threatened with being disciplined and even losing their jobs? TSA employees should have the right to choose if and when they will receive the vaccine based on personal health considerations and their own timeline, not from a government mandate.
TSA has not said what percentage of its employees provided proof of their COVID-19 vaccination. What is TSA’s plan here? Are they going to discipline or even fire employees who are not fully vaccinated? Is this going to happen before the holidays? I don’t understand how TSA can staff airport checkpoints over the holidays and beyond without these valuable and skilled frontline employees.
I’m also concerned that there has been a dramatic increase in the amount of violent and disruptive passengers in surface transportation systems, at our airports, and in flight. These incidents need to stop and I want to hear from our witnesses on how TSA and its Federal Air Marshals can play an increased role in transportation security.
I look forward to learning from the witnesses today what they’re hearing from their membership on these important issues. Transportation workers are crucial to the country’s movement of goods, services, and people. Our economy cannot rebuild without them.
Madam Chairwoman, I yield back.