House approves Katko bill to alleviate long wait times at TSA airport checkpoints

The House of Representatives approved legislation on Tuesday that U.S. Rep. John Katko (R-NY) introduced to address long wait times at TSA checkpoints at airports across the country.

The Checkpoint Optimization and Efficiency Act, H.R. 5338, would take steps to address TSA staffing issues and ensure that the agency has the flexibility to efficiently use its resources to reduce wait times at airport checkpoints.

“With the summer travel season upon us, it should not be the case the passengers are missing flights or that airports are approaching operational ground stop due to long lines at security TSA security checkpoints,” Katko, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Subcommittee on Transportation Security, said.

The bill would allow the TSA to reallocate behavioral detection officers to speed up passenger screenings and grant more authority to federal security directors who know individual airports best.

“Today, the House took action to address this crisis,” Katko said. “The bipartisan measure that I’ve introduced and passed through the House overhauls TSA’s current, bureaucratic procedures and implements commonsense practices to help ensure that the TSA and local airports are working in coordination to relieve congestion. Now, it’s time for the Senate to do its job and take action on this measure.” 

The bill would ensure that private stakeholders and government regulators coordinate responses through a staffing advisory committee, and it would require the TSA to assess current staffing allocation models and to share those findings with air carriers and airports.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said that it is imperative to alleviate unnecessary wait times at airports across the country as summer travel season arrives.

“Rep. John Katko has continued to put forth sensible, bipartisan policy solutions like this bill to ensure the traveling public receives security screening that is not only effective but also efficient” McCaul said. “It is my hope the Senate will swiftly act on this bill and other wait time reduction legislation so we can send it to the president’s desk.”

U.S. Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ), the chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security, said that the bill resulted from roundtable discussions and hearings with stakeholders.

“Too often lately, Arizona passengers have been met with unacceptable delays — and the TSA needs to do a better job,” McSally said. “Today’s bill is a product of discussions and hearings we’ve held in recent weeks. It includes input and solutions from local stakeholders, like (Tucson Airport Authority President) Bonnie Allin, and takes important, sensible steps like increasing TSA transparency and empowering local officials to make better staffing decisions. I’ll continue to work to advance these ideas and make sure the voices of our residents are heard.”

U.S. Rep. David Joyce (R-OH) said on the House floor that he constantly worries about chaotic wait lines at airports and has heard growing frustration from constituents about them.

“It is all of our jobs here in Congress to ensure that our constituents are safe, and it is the responsibility of TSA officers to ensure travelers are thoroughly screened,” Joyce said. “This legislation will boost their efficiency in doing so. Reviewing the TSA’s staffing model is necessary to determine best practices and implement them as soon as possible. This legislation increases transparency and accountability. Examining big-picture problems with the current system and tackling the issues at the source will help to reduce passenger wait times and will ensure the safety of all of our constituents.”

U.S. Rep. Bob Dold (R-IL) said the bill would go “a long way” toward ensuring that the TSA updates its screening procedures and customer service at the country’s busiest airports.

“This bill will ensure that TSA position screeners are where they are needed most, which, I think, is absolutely critical,” Dold said. “The bill will allow the TSA to reallocate K-9 teams to the Nation’s busiest airports or where they are needed. K-9 detecting teams are a vital tool in ensuring the quick and effective screening of passengers.”

During a floor speech, Dold also spoke in favor of bipartisan legislation he introduced to help relieve longer wait times by ending a budget provision that diverts one-third of revenues collected from airline passenger fees to offset spending elsewhere in the budget.

Dold’s Funding for Aviation Screeners and Threat Elimination Restoration (FASTER) Act, H.R. 5340, would require that revenues collected from passengers be used to help finance the costs of aviation security screening.

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