December 29th, 2009
12:18 PM ET
9 years ago

DeMint defends blocking appointment of TSA chief

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Tommy

    Grow up people. You seem to think that no one can make a decent living without being a part of a shakedown organization otherwise known as a union. There are plenty of people making good money out there that are not part of a union.

    December 29, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  2. Sadie

    Sounds to me like Demitt is the one playing politics with Americas security.........Demitt and the rest of the GOP will make all kinds of excuses as to why they don't want Southers as TSA and it is all about them and their party and all this time they are playing with our why don't you Republicans step up to the plate and take the blame , it's all your fault not the Democrats or the Obama sit down and shut don't think we as Americans can't see through the games you are playing?

    December 29, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. gpm

    DeMint is as STUPID as his purpose in trying to halt unions at the TSA.

    December 29, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Peter

    Bring it on GOP, if the sun stops to shine it will be Obama's fault too. Never seen such shameless hypocrites all my life. Wonder what the evil Sarah is up to these days? Can't wait for her to jump into the fray...."I wrote about this too in my book"!

    December 29, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  5. Barbara Independent in NY

    This guy is all about obstruction. He has yet to offer a solution for anything. He probably wouldn't even be elected in most of the other 49 states.

    December 29, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  6. Benson

    Great idea. Let's put a modern-day Jimmy Hoffa in charge of airline security. Let's have thug union bosses deciding what's acceptable in terms of protecting passengers. What could go wrong?

    Oh, and Southers was censured by the FBI for misuse of power. When is that going to get the attention it deserves?

    December 29, 2009 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  7. Southern Voice

    Mr. Demint is not making the wrong decision unions are bad for America and American business.

    I believe in rights for people but workers can and will abuse these rights because of the laziness of the American people democrat or republican.

    You can't let politics get involved with safety but let the Senators work to the extint they need to and i applaud Mr. DeMint for this; CNN and the people commenting on this blog are to liberal to look at the big picture.

    December 29, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  8. MikeH

    We must purge the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) of all last minute Bush appointees, these appointees are likely political sabotuers who would allow harm to come to Americans to advance the Right-Wing Republican cause and harm our President.

    DeMint is an example of a Right-Wing Republican doing harm to America for the Republican cause.

    DeMint is committing treason by interfering with America's security while a war is going on. He should be prosecuted as a traitor.

    December 29, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  9. NC

    The likes of S. C. Senators Demint, Graham, Congressman Joe Wilson and Gov. Sanford are why S. C. is still fighting the Civil War. GOP the PARTY OF NO except when it comes to war and hating women and minorities. Except for Gov. Sanford who left his heart in Argentina and fell in love with a minority.

    December 29, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. rsinter

    Reminds of the Dummacrats holding up appointments of judges. Maybe a teamster would be a good idea at the check points, bada bing.

    December 29, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. T'SAH from Virginia

    Blame DeMint for the December 25, 2009 terror attempt!!! After all, they like to use FEAR tactics in order to get a point across!! Maybe if the TSA Chief was appointed – the terror attack may not have occurred.

    December 29, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. dude palin

    If anything happens to a US citizen,the blood should fall on Mr.DeMint !

    December 29, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  13. Moderate Sean

    Another enigma from South Carolina...enough already!

    December 29, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  14. mjm

    If you want something to go bankrupt, let the employees go union.

    No unions...ever.

    Erroll Southers as TSA chief doesn't change the fact that this terrorist got on a plan while on a watch list, no bags, and no passport.

    December 29, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  15. katiec

    I just cannot understand how any one person can hold up appointments, policies etc. The majority is the majority.
    Am so sick of the party of NOthing. How anyone can support them
    or their actions is beyond me. They are a disgrace as to what our
    political system is all about and well on their way to becoming
    our countries most dangerous domestic terrorists.

    December 29, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  16. Enough

    The Republican are terrorits, periot. These Republicans are playing into the hands of al Qaeda. Terrorist have found a friend in the GOP.

    December 29, 2009 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  17. Bren

    Union employees would mean union strikes.

    Demint is right on regarding this---TSA employees should NOT be able to join a union.

    What would happen if the employees decided to strike??

    This would mean millions of travelers would be placed at increased risk while flying.

    This would also shut down the airlines---and possibly destroy the airline industry.

    Employees for the TSA should be selected carefully, paid well, have background checks, etc.---but they should NOT be able to join a union.

    December 29, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  18. Jane

    Good call seeing how the Homeland Security chief seems incompetent.

    December 29, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. Renee' McDuffie

    Jim Demint you are in deseparte need of prayer. I would hate to be you when you stand before our Lord & Savior. You need to let go of the hatred you hold in your heart. You need to be careful about what why you treat people because your chickens are going to come home to roost.

    December 29, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. JonDie

    Jim DeMint is an enemy of the United States and a friend to terrorists. Period. He's one of those "patriots" who hopes that Al Qaeda will successfully kill Americans because it will help HIS own political agenda. South Carolina is for scumbags.

    December 29, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  21. kravitz

    We're your GOP saying "No" to Obama, but "Yes" to Terror.

    Robs them of a talking point too. Thank goodness the republicans aren't even in charge of themselves, much less the country.

    December 29, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  22. Craig of LA

    Well DeMint who is on record being committed to destroying our President now preaches against workplace democracy and a workers 'right to vote. How truly republican to suppress the rights of hard working Americans. How very interesting that this republican supports government power over the individual. Seems most hypocritical to me, but then again, principled republicans is an oxymoron and DeMint is its poster boy.

    December 29, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  23. Grace

    That's really lame. EMS, nurses, ....are unionized & they function well in crisis. GOP de Mint only allows himself to be in power to delay.....not TSA chief. Perhaps he should nominate himself for that position or at least be the deputy chief of TSA while Obama is the president. Shame on GOP for allowing de Mint to hold up the confirmation ...........

    December 29, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. dieselbug

    DeMint has no clue. If he has any idea about national security he should be pushing confirmations of this type through so the TSA can operate as it should! Blocking it based on some bogus idea that the new boss means the Unions will take over is pure speculation and obstructionism at its worst. Yet another GOPer that needs to grow out of his petulance after losing control of Congress.
    You, sir, are elected to represent the people of your district and this country. You are NOT elected to make this country less safe by blocking appointments such as this.

    December 29, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  25. Hank from Seattle

    Words have consequences, Senator. Nice back-pedaling, but the truth is that you compromised security in the name of political gamesmanship. Of course, this seems to be completely acceptable in Rovian politics where the perceived end always justifies the means, no matter how destructive or divisive.

    December 29, 2009 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
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