The incident on the Detroit-bound Northwest Airlines flight hasn’t only set off a round of new baggage checks and security measures; it’s brought up the
question of why the U.S. doesn’t actually have someone in charge of airport security. That job is supposed to be handled by the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), but though President Obama nominated Errol Southers for that job several months ago, his nomination has
not been confirmed by the Senate. The reason is that Senate rules allow an individual senator to put a “hold” on a nomination, and Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has been holding up Southers’ nomination. DeMint, one of the staunchest conservatives in the Senate, wants a debate about what he sees as Southers’ overly enthusiastic support of unionization. Democrats have seized on this to blame the airport security shambles on Republican obstructionism; the head of the Homeland Security Committee in the House said that DeMint puts “process ahead of progress” and that the underwear bomber incident “highlighted this lack of leadership” at the TSA. DeMint shot back that the blame actually rests with the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, for not scheduling a full vote and debate on Southers. DeMint noted that Reid could have devoted some time to the issue but instead “felt health care was more important.” He also blamed Obama because the President “took forever to nominate him.” So depending on who you’re listening to, the fact that no one’s in charge at the TSA is either all the Democrats’ fault or all the Republicans’ fault.
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