Published: December 30, 2009
The attempted jetliner bombing has laid bare a welter of security shortcomings. One could be easily fixed if Senator Jim DeMint would drop his wrongheaded hold and allow the Senate to confirm a new chief for the Transportation Security Administration.
Times Topics: Jim DeMint
The Obama administration failed to offer a nominee until September, pleading the time was needed to find the right executive for the important post. Their belated choice, Erroll Southers, is a former F.B.I. agent who earned high marks when he served as chief of homeland security for California. He was easily approved by two Senate committees and heading for bipartisan confirmation — until the South Carolina Republican obstructed.
What’s the problem? Mr. DeMint says he won’t let the nomination go forward until he’s assured that a legal ban on T.S.A. workers unionizing will remain in place. Even after last week’s near-disaster over the Detroit airport, Senator DeMint clung to his union-bashing and knee-jerk warnings about the risks of security workers being allowed to collectively bargain.
He absurdly argued that “union bosses” will only worsen airline security (never mind that other federal workers and all manner of police forces responsibly exercise that right) while suggesting that President Obama has been out to “appease the terrorists.”
The Senate’s Democratic leadership isn’t doing any better when it comes to the nomination of Alan Bersin, an experienced homeland security veteran of the Clinton administration, to be the new commissioner of customs and border protection. This is another bulwark security agency that was without an administration nominee until the summer.
In this case, the issue is neglect, not ideology. Mr. Bersin’s confirmation has been sidelined by the contentious Senate agenda. By now, Senator Harry Reid, the majority leader, surely realizes that he must make both positions an instant priority. If there’s any doubt, President Obama needs to forcefully remind him.
Even then, the jobs can’t be filled until the Senate returns — three weeks from now. The gap could be even longer if Senator DeMint won’t drop his destructive hold on Mr. Southers. That would make a cloture fight necessary in what should have been a quick and dynamic response to an essential public need.