House moves to ramp up airport security
The chamber on Tuesday night was scheduled to take up the bill, which includes two main provisions, the first of which would improve security checkpoints – sometimes by donating U.S. equipment – to foreign airports that operate non-stop flights bound for the U.S.
The other would direct the Transportation Security Administration to assess the risk of a terrorist attack in the U.S. originating from a foreign airport.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters earlier Tuesday that he foresaw no obstacles to the legislation.
The Senate has already acted to include some of those improved security measures in a Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill it passed earlier this month. Those improvements included more bomb dog teams and more active-shooter preparedness.
The actions in both chambers reflect renewed attention to terrorism concerns in the wake of the deadly ISIS-related attacks in Paris and Brussels in recent months.
“Together, as partners in Congress, we can make the traveling public more secure and promote the free movement of the American people across the country and around the world,” Rep. John Katko of New York, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement.
In the U.S., the Transportation Security Administration has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of rising risks at American airports. This month, TSA announced that a record-high number of 73 firearms were confiscated in a single week at security checkpoints, 68 of which were loaded. Federal law assigns potential penalties of $11,000 for such an offense.
And in January, the agency announced that in all of 2015, a record 2,653 firearms – more than seven a day – were caught in carry-on bags at U.S. airports. That figure jumped 20 percent from 2014. At the time, TSA administrator Peter Neffenger hailed those numbers, saying they proved improved detection methods were working.
The airports with the highest numbers of confiscated weapons last year were Dallas-Fort Worth, Atlanta, Houston, Denver and Phoenix. All of those are international airports that serve foreign flights coming into the U.S.
On Tuesday, McCarthy said he didn’t think increased funding for the TSA was necessary for now, despite the rising tide of incidents. But he pointed out that a newly created House task force created to increase airport security. “I wouldn’t see it as a funding issue because if someone is getting screened and they walk through with a gun, paying more doesn’t necessarily stop it,” he said.