The SAFE Port Act (H.R. 4954) passed the House this afternoon by an overwhelming 421-2 vote. There was another tussle on the issue of 100% container screening, and a Motion to Recommit that would have added a 100% screening requirement failed along partisan lines. But overall, this was a good day for bipartisanship in the House of Representatives, and I think that the House has passed a strategically-sound bill that will lead to real improvements in port and cargo security.
The passage of this bill is also a milestone of sorts for the House Homeland Security Committee, and a sign that the committee has become a mature, knowledgeable, and effective participant in the legislative process. The bill was first introduced on March 14, 2006. To go from introduction through the subcommittee and committee markup process and all the way to final passage in seven weeks is a remarkable feat, and a sign that other committees are now deferring to the HSC on issues of homeland security. Were it not for the jurisdictional reforms at the start of the 109th Congress, the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee would have made a greater claim to jurisdiction over these issues, and efforts to pass this bill would have likely been slowed. By contrast, these jurisdictional issues were only half-addressed in the Senate, which is perhaps one reason why the companion bill in the Senate, the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act, faces a slower and more winding road as it moves toward passage.
Update 2 (5/4): The OMB released a “Statement of Administration Policy” on the SAFE Port Act, which suggests the areas that the White House try to influence when this legislation goes to conference.