Friday, March 02, 2007

100% Scans Downed By Dems

Senate drops 100-percent inspection proposal

Twelve Democrats and Independent Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut joined Republicans to defeat a proposal that would have required all containers to be scanned before they were shipped to the United States from a foreign port.

The Senate late Thursday voted 58-38 to table an amendment offered by Democrat Charles Schumer of New York requiring 100-percent scanning of all U.S.-bound containers within five years of the completion of the Secure Freight Initiative pilot program that Congress ordered last October in the SAFE Port Act.

The amendment would have become part of the “Improving America's Security by Implementing Unfinished Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007” (S. 4). In January the House of Representatives passed a companion bill that includes the scan-all provision.

Four of the opposing senators were members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee, which drafted SAFE Port. They were joined by senior lawmakers including Robert Byrd, D-W.V., and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii. Byrd said he supported 100-percent scanning, but the technology was not available to achieve it. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania was the only Republican to vote in support of Schumer’s amendment.

Peter Gatti, executive vice president of the National Industrial Transportation League, said that senators from the Pacific Northwest were pivotal in defeating Schumer’s amendment, since they had been under intense political pressure to support it. They included Democrats Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington, and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

“This is the second round of debate on this particular question,” Gatti said. “Nobody in principle is against the concept of scanning, it’s the question of can we do it in a way that doesn’t cripple the very system we’re trying to protect.”

The Senate may pass its bill as early as Wednesday or Thursday of next week. The next step will be the conference to reconcile differences between the two bills before it is sent to President Bush for signing. Alison O’Donnell, director of government relations for the National Retail Federation, was optimistic that the scan-all provision would remain out of the conference report.

On one hand, the Senate gave the bill closer scrutiny through the committee process, while the House did not, O’Donnell said. In addition, the scan-all issue already has previously come up six or seven times as an amendment, and it has been defeated each time.

“Anything can happen in conference,” O’Donnell said. “Certainly our job isn’t done.”

Allen Thompson, vice president for global supply chain policy for the Retail Industry Leaders Association, agreed. “This is not a sprint, it’s a marathon.”

**Calmer heads prevailed here...if passed, the reality of scanning every container coming into the country would have cost millions! Thank you Senator Byrd and the rest of the Senate for taking a pragmatic approach to this issue.**

Have a great weekend! MJS


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