December 29th, 2009
12:18 PM ET
6 months ago

DeMint defends blocking appointment of TSA chief

DeMint is blocking the appointment of a new TSA chief out of unionization concerns.
DeMint is blocking the appointment of a new TSA chief out of unionization concerns.

Washington (CNN) - Elected officials on Capitol Hill are planning to hold hearings in January to investigate the safety gaps in airline security, made more pronounced since the attempted bombing over Detroit on Christmas Day.

But one important officeholder, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, likely won't be present at any of the hearings - simply because his nomination is being blocked in the Senate.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, has been holding up the confirmation of Erroll Southers to be TSA chief, in an effort to prevent TSA employees from joining a labor union. Southers is a former FBI special agent and counterterrorism expert.

"The attempted terror attack in Detroit is a perfect example of why the Obama Administration should not unionize the TSA and allow our airline security decisions to be dictated by union bosses," DeMint said in a statement. "I hope this incident will lead the President to re-think this policy and put the interests of American travelers ahead of organized labor."

DeMint points to inefficiencies that will arise from the organizing of TSA employees, which he says may ultimately jeopardize the safety of Americans, such as the inability of rewarding exceptional screeners and firing those who are underperforming, the inflexibility to change protocols as emergency situations arise, and the need to require more collective bargaining as new safety mechanisms create new job descriptions.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid contends that Democrats "have been trying to confirm Mr. Southers" since his nomination was approved by two separate Senate committees.

"Sadly the Republican obstructionism of just one person, Senator Demint, prevented TSA from having the leadership in place that the organization deserves," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.

But the largest organizer of transportation security officers, the American Federation of Government Employees, disagrees with DeMint's central claims against unionization – citing the unobstructed cooperation by union members of both the New York City police and fire departments in the aftermath of the September 11attacks.

"This is not an issue of security. There is no evidence that labor rights have any effect on transportation security officers," said Emily Ryan, spokeswoman for AFGE.

AFGE represents 12,000 of TSA's nearly 40,000 transportation security officers in many personnel matters, while also overseeing the broader collective bargaining of nearly 40,000 other government employees at the Department of Homeland Security, including the Coast Guard, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"This is a dedicated workforce who see their jobs as important to the security of the nation," said Ryan.

While Southers' nomination is being blocked, there is an acting administrator of the TSA running the agency.


Filed under: Jim DeMint
soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. Slider

    Mr. DeMint, you are missing the point...

    Obama, like Marx (who set up the first international union in this country, the IBWM) loves unions, and sees them as creatures of accomodation to the socialist cause.

    It's all about centralization of power, sir. Unions cater to that ideal.

    December 29, 2009 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
  2. PAUL W.

    GOP politics as usual. Obstruct and ruin as much of America as possible until they get back into power and then really ruin things.

    December 29, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  3. patNY

    Frak'n unbelievable! A repuke is holding up the confirmation of a clearly qualified candidate to head TSA, based on the repuke's anti-union partisian ideology! So much for country first!

    December 29, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  4. Mike Ross

    Unbelievable, unconscionable, and un-American. These words describe the partisan antics and Sen Demint. Endangering the country with his anti-union stance. This attack had nothing to do with labor unions. Terrorists don't care if employees have the right to organize. Sen Demint is more concerned with scoring political points against the administration than protecting or serving America.

    December 29, 2009 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  5. Jon

    Another Republican who cares more about his petty political views than the nation or its safety.

    December 29, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. Willy Brown

    Get the Union out of TSA then look into appointments.

    December 29, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  7. billy123

    I love the picture with the three GOP Senators together. One Senator is rooting for President Obam waterlue on health care reform. The other Senator a Doctor is only looking out for the insurance companies and sticking his finger to the American people.

    Then last but not the least Senator Ensign! I ashamed to state the Senator from my state of Nevada. The only thing this guy is intrested in is for everbody to quit talking about his affair with one of his staffers. His parents pay the husband $90,000 dollars for hush money.

    Please this is the face of the GOP? I will take the Dems everyday of the week.

    December 29, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  8. Jon

    Another Republican putting politicals ahead of the security of this country. I shouldn't be surprised anymore but I am disgusted. This man needs to be confirmed and Jim DeMint's priorities need to be examined. He's a disgrace.

    December 29, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  9. Michael

    When was it a attack on Detroit? I thought it was an international flight on its way to the US. So how was there a lapse in our system and how was it an attack on Detroit? If the person had been successful then the plane would not have reached Detroit so it couldnt have been a Detroit attack!

    December 29, 2009 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. martin

    The attempted terror attack in Detroit is a perfect example of why the TSA should not have a chief administrator. After all, if we have minimum wage earners manning the security checkpoints, the likelyhood of a succesful terrorist attack will be greatly increased, which could certainly breath new life into the ongoing crusade against the current administration. The fact that no one was killed or injured in the incident, while being portrayed in the Liberal press as a 'good' thing, only underscores the lack of effort on the part of the terrorists.

    December 29, 2009 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  11. ThinkAgain

    DeMint is following the GOP mandate of doing anything and everything to try to make our president and our country fail.

    DeMint is putting his party's politics ahead of our country's safety, plain and simple.

    GOP = Party Before Country

    December 29, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  12. Beth

    It IS a dedicated workforce that deserves to be protected. These TSA officers are our first line of defense when we board the plane. Their rights and their interests need to be protected. Morale among the screeners is low. If they don't have a union to protect their interests, who do they have?

    December 29, 2009 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  13. Michelle

    So now the unions are responsible for terror attacks? What next? Democrats are responsible for ice storms, traffic jams, fish kills, the latest murder in NYC, the price of milk, the lack of snow shovels in Texas....did I miss anything, Mr. DeMint? You are incredible, you and your Republican clan of idiots...I can tell that you were always handed cushy jobs and never had to work for a living. I worked for a union twice in my life, and believe me, it was the most secure I ever felt, and the most fairly I was ever paid.

    December 29, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  14. ThinkAgain

    In addition to not wanting to protect our country by blocking the nomination of Erroll Southers to be TSA chief, DeMint is doing everything he can to weaken the rights of workers.

    And these GOP yahoos say they are the ones who care the most about our country?

    HAH!

    December 29, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  15. jeff

    I think it is disgusting and unamerican that Senator Demint would risk the security of the US in order to push his political agenda. It is beyond question that the nominee is qualified and recent events prove how necessary having this expert in place is. Sen. Demint is willing to have Americans die rather than allow a union to expand. This is not the first time that the Senator has placed his hatred of Obama and the Democrats above his primary responsibility for the safety and welfare of the American people.

    December 29, 2009 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  16. walker

    Enough of the Washington "politics". GOP blocks TSA chief, Democrats will now go after the Bush people for releasing Gitmo detainees who reside in Yemen. Peter King wants to blame Obama for the security faliure in Amsterdam. Washington has lost its function of representation and become solely obstructionist. Throw out the bunch of them, everyone!!!! Does anyone know how to bring this gvernment together to represent the average American and not a ploitical agenda?

    December 29, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  17. AEK

    As with any other business/production facility, the members of the TSA are only asking for the RIGHT to vote on whether or not their best interests and the best interests of our country would be served by union membership. Of course for the hypocrite Republicans like Mr. DeMint this means that the whole TSA would be compromised and our nation's transportation system would be in jeopardy. Typical fear mongering for political purposes.

    December 29, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  18. J. Rochester, NY

    GOP Talk = Tough on Terror
    GOP Actions = Petty and childish, regardless of the actual danger to the American public

    December 29, 2009 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  19. Chris

    This is politics as usual for the republican party. The Bush administration released two of the al Qaeda leaders allegedly behind the plot to blow up the airliner on Christmas day. They were released into an "art therapy rehabilitation program." Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) has introduced legislation to remove the body imaging scanners used by TSA, claiming it is an invasion of privacy. The House GOP voted against funding for TSA. And now Demint is blocking the TSA chief's appointment.

    But when something goes wrong and there is a terror incident, they will scream that it is all Obama's fault.

    December 29, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    As a side note to this story:

    According to American officials and Department of Defense documents, two of the four leaders allegedly behind the thwarted attack against Northwest Airlines Flight 253 were released by the U.S. from the Guantanamo prison in November, 2007.

    That would be under Bush and Cheney's watch ...

    December 29, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  21. Francis Marion

    Only DeMint can justify putting Americans at risk by his non stop stupidity. He meets with leaders of the military coup in Honduras, at the expense of the ousted elected president, and works closely with "C" Street in the Uganda gay rights fiasco.

    South Carolina deserves better than DeMint and Sanford.

    December 29, 2009 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  22. jfs Memhis, Tn

    Too bad he isn't as diligent at getting rid of his own Gov. Sanford. These GOPers REALLY have a "set "don't they ???? Now seriously folks do you actually think that this party will over take Independent or Democratic candidates ??? Who with any amount of concern or care about "OR" country would cast a vote for any candidate , regardless of which affiliation, of this calibur ???? Pathetic.

    December 29, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  23. TBA

    Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina,is playing games again like any RNC/GOP is playing games.

    December 29, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. Bruce

    I don't think I want the people who have my life in their hand to be the lowest paid non-skilled workers...Unionized workers don't seem to be a bad idea in this case.

    December 29, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  25. gary

    The obstructionists are endangering our country!

    December 29, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
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