Friday, December 4, 2009

Republican DeMint chooses politics over national security

Republican Sen. Jim DeMint is holding up the confirmation of Errol Southers to head the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), leaving the agency without a leader. An important post that ensures the security of all Americans traveling across the country and abroad, scrutiny over who will run the TSA is well-deserved...except over something as mundane as collective bargaining rights for TSA employees.

That's right -- your security is being held hostage by a Republican who has a beef with unions.

DeMint believes that, by allowing TSA employees to organize and bargain collectively their contracts, security at airports and other areas prone to attack could be put at greater risk.

"Collective bargaining would standardize things across the country, make it much less flexible, much harder for the agency to adapt to changing threats around the world," DeMint said recently.

But other agencies that deal with issues of national security -- such as Border Control and the Federal Protective Service, among others -- are allowed to bargain collectively as a union without compromise to the nation's security whatsoever. And one committee in the House of Representatives has already approved a move towards allowing TSA employees these rights.

Southers himself has remained neutral on the subject, telling DeMint that he wouldn't implement any practice that would worsen the agency's commitment to security. DeMint has accused Southers of skirting the issue.

If DeMint wants to debate the merits of collective bargaining for TSA employees or whether such an idea would adversely affect national security, he should do so within the Senate version of the bill proposed in the House. But holding up the nomination of an important position that deals with matters of national security seems to benefit no one except DeMint himself, who it seems is trying to make the matter political.

DeMint isn't unaccustomed to the politics of obstructionism -- he was the Senator who tried to rally his GOP allies to make health care Obama's "Waterloo"; who regrets not coining the phrase "YOU LIE!" when Joe Wilson yelled it out during President Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress; and who is congratulating Tea Party protesters for helping to obstruct the bill through intimidation at town hall meetings during the summer. Those issues, however, didn't involve national security.

It's understandable why a Republican senator would want to obstruct health care reform -- it's practically part of their platform. But what DeMint is doing would be considered treason by some of his right-wing colleagues -- that is, were it a Democrat doing it against a Republican nominee. Where's the outrage from conservatives now? Why haven't we seen criticism from conservative lawmakers over this issue, over DeMint's insistence to make a stand against a nominee who has no real opinion on the issue?

It's important that we truly examine every person nominated for positions that deal with national security. But the examination of these candidates shouldn't be on the basis of policy that they don't control or don't have an opinion on. A political stand should be made on policy matters, but it should be done in the appropriate venue -- in this case, within debate the Senate will have over granting TSA employees the right to collective bargaining.

DeMint obviously thinks otherwise, and is putting his politics ahead of national security. He should be ashamed for doing so, and his colleagues should call him out on it.

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