The government’s failure to fully implement a biometric system to track the entry and departure of foreign visitors to the U.S. due to protestations from special interests is an example of the reason behind Congress’s low approval ratings, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL).
“If people in the Senate would like to know why the American people are not happy with the performance of Congress, this is a very good example,” Sessions said on the Senate floor Thursday.
“Congress promises to fix a problem, even claims we voted for and even claimed we passed laws to fix a problem, and then it sits by while nothing happens and two decades go by. Why? Well, the special interests speak up,” he said.
The Alabama lawmaker has been trying to attach an amendment to legislation reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that would facilitate the implementation of the “exit” portion of a biometric entry-exit tracking system at the nation’s airports. While Congress has mandated such a system for years to tamp down on visa-overstays, only the “entry” portion of the system is in place.
“We’ve got lobbyists sending out letters saying, “Oppose the Sessions amendment,” he said. “It’s time for us to represent the national interest, the time for the special interests is over on this subject.”
Sessions called on Congress to reject the objections of the airline lobbying industry and instead focus on what he said are the desires of the American people and recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. Sessions said:
Airports and airlines, they’re happy to get federal assistance whenever they can. They’d better be trying to cooperate, by making their airlines even safer than it is today. It’s time to fulfill the promise and commitment we made to the American people. how much longer can this go on? We promised the American people a system that will demonstrably improve our national security. We voted for it time and again. We have bipartisan support for it.
He added that if his amendment were to get a vote, it would receive strong bipartisan support.
“We must do everything we can to implement the system,” he said. “I hope some way, some how, before this [FAA] bill goes to final passage dealing with airports and public safety issues, that we fix this problem. Why not? I don’t know a single person that opposes it. But we couldn’t get the bill — the amendment up, couldn’t make it pending. The Democrats objected to it and now we have an objection to having a vote on it before final passage of the legislation.”