TSA boss is MIA: One senator wrong to hold up confirmation of nominee

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Who's running the TSA? No one, thanks to Sen. Jim DeMint
Maybe it wouldn't have affected the Christmas Day terrorist's attempt to down a Northwest Airlines plane near Detroit if the Transportation Safety Administration had a top boss. Maybe.

We'll never know because Senate confirmation of President Obama's nominee to head the TSA has been held up by one individual, Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C. When Senate leaders tried to approve the nomination of Erroll Southers this month, Mr. DeMint exercised a senator's power to put a hold on a presidential nomination's confirmation.

This arcane power of a single senator to hold up an important appointment, sometimes for months, is unseemly for the legislative body charged with giving the White House ``advice and consent'' on foreign policy and other issues.

Mr. DeMint worries that TSA employees may be allowed to unionize, something he opposes. So, like other senators before him on both sides of the aisle, Mr. DeMint blocked the confirmation vote. Florida Sen. George LeMieux pulled the same stunt this fall and froze the confirmation process for Tom Shannon, a veteran Foreign Service officer nominated to be U.S. ambassador to Brazil.

Mr. LeMeiux felt that Mr. Shannon wasn't tough enough on the Castro regime during his time as assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere. A bipartisan majority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee supported Mr. Shannon's confirmation, finding him highly qualified. Mr. LeMieux finally lifted his hold on Dec. 13 so this key Latin American job can be filled.

As for Mr. Southers, he appears to be just as qualified for his pending post as Mr. Shannon is for the ambassadorship. Mr. Southers, a former FBI agent, currently is an airport police official in California.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this week that he will file a cloture motion to limit debate and move to a roll-call vote on Mr. Southers' nomination when senators reconvene in about three weeks. Cloture votes take several days.

Meantime, the TSA has been without a top administrator for nearly a year. This is no way to run the agency charged with keeping transportation safe for Americans. Mr. DeMint should lift his hold immediately.

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