Senate to clash with House over container 100% inspection provision

Published 14 February 2007

The House voted to mandate 100% inspection of U.S.-bound frieght containers; a Senate panel agrees with the Bush administration that the measure would be too costly

The two chambers of the U.S. Congress may be in the hands of the same party, but this does not mean that an anti-terrorism bill now being proposed by top senators is not going to spark major clashes with the House of Representatives. The reason: The bill would allocate more domestic security money for smaller and rural states and drop requirements for tougher cargo inspections.

The contentious clauses are contained in the Senate version of legislation to implement remaining recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. The legislation was introduced by the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, Senator Joseph Lieberman (Ind.-Connecticut), and the panel’s top Republican, Senator Susan Collins (Maine). Their panel is scheduled to vote on the measure tomorrow.

The Senate legislation would drop House-passed provisions which would require that all containers on U.S.-bound vessels be screened in foreign ports for radiation, and all cargo loaded onto U.S. airliners be screened for explosives. Both measures were opposed strongly by the Bush administration on grounds that they are too costly and require the use of technology that does not exist.

Note, though, that the Senate Commerce Committee passed an aviation security bill Tuesday which has a similar provision regarding screening of all air cargo. Congressional budget analysts have estimated the House bill’s cost at $21 billion over the next five years. The Senate bill does not yet have an overall cost estimate.

The Senate version also contains a provision not in the House bill that would change a program that allows citizens of twenty-seven countries considered close U.S. allies to enter the United States without visas. This Visa Waiver program has been criticized since the 9/11 attacks, and the administration has promised to strengthen its security and open it to additional allies, particularly Eastern European countries now aiding the U.S. effort in Iraq.

-read more in this AP report