Perhaps the largest impediment to change at the agency: South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has a hold on the appointment of a TSA chief, over his concern that the new administration could allow security screeners to unionize.
Republicans have cast votes against the key TSA funding measure that the 2010 appropriations bill for the Department of Homeland Security contained, which included funding for the TSA, including for explosives detection systems and other aviation security measures. In the June 24 vote in the House, leading Republicans including John Boehner, Pete Hoekstra, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan voted against the bill, amid a procedural dispute over the appropriations process, a Democrat points out. A full 108 Republicans voted against the conference version, including Boehner, Hoekstra, Pence, Michelle Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn, Darrell Issa and Joe Wilson.
The conference bill included more than $4 billion for "screening operations," including $1.1 billion in funding for explosives detection systems, with $778 million for buying and installing the systems.
UPDATE: DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton responds:
Democrats have only themselves to blame for not having a confirmed TSA administrator. President Obama waited 243 days in office before making a nomination and Harry Reid has been too busy trading earmarks for votes on health care to schedule debate on the nominee. This is an important debate because many Americans don't want someone running the TSA who stands ready to give union bosses the power to veto or delay future security measures at our airports.
Relevant appropriations language after the jump.
For necessary expenses of the Transportation Security Administration related to providing civil aviation security services pursuant to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (Public Law 107–71; 115 Stat. 597; 49 U.S.C. 40101 note), $5,214,040,000, to remain available until September 30, 2011, of which not to exceed $10,000 shall be for official reception and representation expenses: Provided, That of the total amount made available under this heading, not to exceed $4,358,076,000 shall be for screening operations, of which $1,116,406,000 shall be available for explosives detection systems; and not to exceed $855,964,000 shall be for aviation security direction and enforcement: Provided further, That of the amount made available in the preceding proviso for explosives detection systems, $778,300,000 shall be available for the purchase and installation of these systems, of which not less than 28 percent shall be available for the purchase and installation of certified explosives detection systems at medium- and small-sized airports: Provided further, That any award to deploy explosives detection systems shall be based on risk, the airport’s current reliance on other screening solutions, lobby congestion resulting in increased security concerns, high injury rates, airport readiness, and increased cost effectiveness: Provided further, That of the total amount provided, $1,250,000 shall be made available for Safe Skies Alliance to develop and enhance research and training capabilities for Transportation Security Officer improvised explosive recognition training:
For necessary expenses of the Transportation Security Administration related to providing transportation security support and intelligence pursuant to the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (Public Law 107–71; 115 Stat. 597; 49 U.S.C. 40101 note), $1,001,780,000, to remain available until September 30, 2011: Provided, That of the funds appropriated under this heading, $20,000,000 may not be obligated for headquarters administration until the Secretary of Homeland Security submits to the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of Representatives detailed expenditure plans for air cargo security, and for checkpoint support and explosives detection systems refurbishment, procurement, and installations on an airport-by-airport basis for fiscal year 2010: Provided further, That these plans shall be submitted no later than 60 days after the date of enactment of this Act.