WASHINGTON – Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., Thursday praised the conference committee on the 9/11 Commission legislation for resolving several outstanding legislative issues between the House and Senate versions of the bill that would implement unfulfilled recommendations of the 9-11 Commission and strengthen the nation’s security against terrorism.
The most contentious issue – whether or not to require 100 percent screening of incoming maritime cargo – was resolved when conferees agreed to an amendment by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. That amendment would establish a five-year deadline for 100 percent scanning of all containers before they are loaded onto ships bound for U.S. ports, but it also would allow the Department of Homeland Security Secretary to waive that deadline as necessary.
Issues still to be resolved include a proposal by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., which House conferees approved but Senate conferees rejected, to allow the Department of Transportation to distribute Department of Homeland Security transit security grants; and the question of which agency within the Department of Homeland Security will administer grants to improve interoperable communications for first responders.
Two other provisions regarding Unified Carrier Registration and Emergency Management Performance Grants were resolved shortly before the conference meeting took place.
“Today’s meeting was productive and encouraging for a rapid final resolution of this important legislation to advance the personal security of every American,” Lieberman said. “We owe it to our constituents, to our country, to pass this bipartisan bill as quickly as we can.”
“House and Senate leaders identified the 9/11 legislation as priority legislation for the 110th Congress,” Lieberman continued. “It has taken on even greater urgency in recent weeks, given terrorist activity in the United Kingdom, the National Intelligence Estimate on al Qaeda’s continuing intentions to strike the U.S., and warnings from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff that the U.S. remains vulnerable, especially during these summer months.”
“The resolution of the maritime cargo screening gives us added momentum as we close in on the finish line. This is what the families of 9/11 victims, Hurricane Katrina survivors, and Americans all across the country expect and deserve.”
House and Senate committees will continue to negotiate final legislation on S.4/H.R.1. No decisions have been made on future conference meetings.