Congress Must Ensure Airline Safety
October 20, 2001
Good morning. This is Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. I am the senior Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and the newly-elected Democratic Whip in the House of Representatives.
Just over a month ago, our country suffered an unimaginable horror. As we continue to mourn those who are lost and comfort their loved ones, we must prevent future acts of terrorism.
We must remember that the primary goal of terrorists is to instill fear. With the barbaric attacks on September 11th and the ongoing use of anthrax, terrorists are challenging our way of life. We must not let them succeed. Democrats and Republicans alike stand side by side with President Bush in rooting out terrorism wherever it exists in the world.
In this morning’s remarks, I want to address the issue of airline safety. Even before September 11th, we were faced with an economic slowdown, which has been worsened by the attacks. Our economy depends on safe and efficient transportation. Airline safety is critical to getting us back to business as usual.
Action on airline safety is long overdue. For years, experts have warned that our airline security systems are deeply flawed. Now we have proof. In Congress, we must take immediate steps to ensure that all of our airlines and airports are safe. We must not let airline security fall by the political wayside.
The President has set forth detailed proposals for airline safety. On October 11th, the Senate by a vote of 100 to zero passed legislation to make our skies safe. But in the House of Representatives, the Republican leadership refuses to bring up the airline security bill.
We have a choice: maintain the status quo as a minority in the House of Representatives wants us to do. Or dramatically change the system for the better.
A bipartisan majority led by Democrats in the House and 100 percent of the U.S. Senate want to place the responsibility for screening passengers in the hands of federal security officers. It is a bedrock responsibility of our government to ensure our personal safety and security.
The key line of defense for airline safety is the screening process for passengers and baggage. But many of the screeners who operate those checkpoints are woefully under-trained and underpaid. Turnover rates are very high. On the average, screeners stay on the job for less than a year.
Passengers are bearing the burden of higher security - standing in line for hours and undergoing extensive searches. We need to improve our systems, and ease the pressure on travelers.
We need to move forward. It is unacceptable to hold America’s safety in the sky hostage to the political agenda of a handful in the House of Representatives. This week, refusing to accept this inaction, House Democrats introduced an airline security bill that would establish a new Transportation Security Administration to make air travel safe.
In addition to safe transportation, our economy depends on a strong workforce. The attacks on September 11th thrust airline companies to the verge of bankruptcy, and thousands of workers lost their jobs. Congress quickly passed legislation to bail out the airlines, but the House Republican leadership has yet to bring up legislation to help airline workers. With more than 140,000 airline workers unemployed, Democrats are pushing to provide them with unemployment benefits, health care, and retraining.
Democrats and Republicans must work together in this challenging time. We will comfort those who lost their loved ones, help those who lost their jobs, and ensure the safety of the American people. This is Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, thank you for listening.
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