December 29th, 2009
12:18 PM ET
3 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. Pete

    If Republicans truly have such a problem with unions, then why don't they stop playing games and introduce legislation that revokes the Constitutionally protected right of Free Association, and the Federally protected right to collective bargaining?

    December 29, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. Dan, TX

    DeMint and the Republicans appear to be just awful people.

    December 29, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  3. Obama Mama

    Another Republican idiot ...I hope America wake up and smell the coffee.

    December 29, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  4. Brian

    Stop your crying you left wing nuts. If you think we are in such danger by this single person not being in power then you must think very little of the people already working to keep us safe in the TSA.

    We don't need Unions, work the way you are asked by your company or show your power and quit. All Unions do is create lazy people who hide behind them and lead to poor quality products.

    As for Gitmo wait until your beloved Obama realeases more of these detainees on us. Do I hear ticking.....

    December 29, 2009 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  5. tony reed

    It's time the airlines unionized again anyway. Watch Capitalism-A Love Story. Pilots are paid less than burger flippers! Corporatism in this country is out of control, killing our economy and killing our people! Cut executive and corporate profits and spend it on security and worker pay- it all equals higher security and safety for passengers.

    December 29, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  6. Republicanssuckbigtime

    DeMint is not only an idiot, but a traitor.

    December 29, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  7. Democrats really don't care about you...

    Liberals don't think. Democrats have forced bad legislation, nominations.... through congress because of super majorities. I'm glad that republicans are stopping some of the worst policies that aren't getting complete dem sign off.

    Unionizing our security is the stupidest thing that I've heard. Unionizing takes out the incentive to do a good job. Let the free market work without union and government intervention.

    Democrats need to use their brains before spouting hypocrisy–they were awful during the past 6 years (leading to the economic problems we have today).

    December 29, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  8. Gerry from Cincinnati

    Just another treasonous Repub, putting party games and personal ambition ahead of the safety of the American people. Maybe if he hadn't blocked the appointment of a professional to head the TSA because of his loyalty to his corporate masters, we might have a safer flying environment.

    We haven't heard a word from Demint about his hero, George Bush, releasing the bomber's Al Qaeda trainers from Gitmo in 2007 so that they could be rehabed by "art therapy".
    Get this low life out of office.

    December 29, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Larry

    DeMint is running his stupid mouth again.

    I wish the Republicans would die a quieter death.

    December 29, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  10. Future expat

    This is somewhat reminiscent of the whole "death panels" flap, in which the whole argument is based on a hyperbolic threat posed by some ill-defined caricature of a standard GOP boogie man.

    With the death panels it was a "government bureaucrat" that would be deciding who lives and who dies. Here it's a "union boss" being granted undue authority of the TSA. These characters are part of a pantheon that includes "welfare queens", "America-hating hippies", "the liberal media", and dozens more.

    It's disgraceful that GOP officials use such a cynical tactic to fool their moronic constituents.

    December 29, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. tony reed

    Nice, CNN. Thanks for your in-depth report thoroughly explaining what 6 grams of PETN does, how to hide it from detection and exactly how to detonate it. Thanks, morons.

    December 29, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  12. bobby

    mr demint grow up!

    December 29, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. Marty, Grand Rapids MI

    Why do republicans hate unions so much? In most cases they offer a good counter balance to management. One cares about the people doing the work and the other cares about share holders.

    Can unions be corrupt? Yes, anything you flow money through can become corrupt. This includes corporations, government, unions and churches. But, if you have corrupt management, you end up with a hand full of execs with money and everyone else loses out (aka Enron, AIG, you name it). If you have a corrupt union, thousands of union workers make out.

    We need a way to ensure a livable wage for people, otherwise the poor just become slaves to the rich and what is the point of that?

    December 29, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  14. baracuda

    What a pitiful bunch of idiots these republican leaders are. Does America really deserve this in the 21st century. This is quite embarrassing quite frankly.

    December 29, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  15. bobby

    the gop is proving again and again that it doesnt have the good of the american public in mind..all they want to do is prove their political might by rejecting EVERYTHING no mater how it affects our security..what a bunch of complete4 idiots and self serving meglomaniacs

    December 29, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  16. Ruty

    Demint is a total MORON. Does he really know what he is doing or what he is saying? Hey, DeMinted -get a hobby.

    December 29, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    DeMint's argument is completely out of line and not one Republican should stand with him on this one. DeMint is taking his personal self serving opinion above and beyond the job of TSA or the American people. He is way out of line.

    December 29, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  18. kuriya

    Politic is making politicians not to think above their nose especially the republicans.

    December 29, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  19. When looking for a terrorist-look at republicans

    The terrorists are here and they were running our country for the past 8 years –

    We saw what they do. How they lie. Cheat. Blame others (they never take any responsibility) and oh yeah, always talking about their moral values way sleeping with others and calling it god's will.

    Get rid of these dirt bags – for the last year they have done nothing but obstruct and complain. I say, stop paying their salaries and benefits.

    December 29, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  20. AP in Illinois

    Jim DeMint...are you with us or against us? Which is it? You must be sympathetic to the terrorists since you aren't with the President on this one.

    December 29, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  21. Paula Kempton, PA

    I am sick and tired of everything being Bush's fault!!! There are way too many, well educated people forgetting the democrats were and still are the majority. The dems were the majority in the house and senate for the last 4 years of Bush administartion...so who do you think is making the decisions.....start blaming the right party......Thank you!

    December 29, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  22. K W

    Why does the South continue to elect dimbulbs? It's like they have never gotton over the Civil War. They still cling to their silly confederate flag for some reason. This is America! We are one! We have an opportunity to place a former FBI and Counterterrorism expert in charge of TSA...and he is being held up because of potential union problems? Come on! Unions have more elite workers and besides doing a bad job WILL get you fired as the TSA is private not the federal goverment, which is different. DeMint-get off your butt for a change. This guy is the worst South Carolina has had.

    December 29, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  23. CNN in the censoring buisness..shameful! He LIVES so ALL man can know peace and love!

    I rarely agree that one shouldn't unionize...but in this case...I think therre is real exception. There can be no lax action for protecting American citizens.

    December 29, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  24. jack

    The shame belongs to every voter who cast a vote for DeMint. How could the people of South Carolina vote a moron into office? Please show some common sense and turn this idiot out of office.The petty politics being used by the GOP are going to bring about another disaster to this country. Like 9/11 wasn't bad enough they almost added Dec. 09 plane bombing to their resume.

    When your party is out of fresh ideas and all past actions have proven to be failures. Obstruction is the only answer. But obstruction only leads to destruction. One airliner and almost 160 people faced that destruction and were prevented from being added to the total of dead killed on 9/11.

    Jim DeMint needs to be brought up on attempted murder charges. His obstruction (of the TSA nomination) almost caused the destruction of 160 souls and one airliner. Now that's making our skies safer .

    December 29, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. The Root Word of Progressive is Progress

    ""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,"

    Wait a minute there, Jimmy! How in the world can you say that the attempted terror attack, which happened while the TSA is NOT unionized, and BEFORE Mr. Southers is confirmed is a perfect example of why the Administration "should not unionize the TSA" What a MORON DeMint is!

    Once again the Conservative Crack Heads are being allowed to make this country LESS safe and LESS economically solvent with their obstructionist ideology!

    December 29, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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