June 12, 2007 - FUNDS TO DOUBLE INSPECTIONS OF AIR CARGO ON PASSENGER PLANES IN HOUSE BILL

Rep. Markey’s strong advocacy for homeland security initiatives pays off

WASHINGTON, DC -- Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), a senior member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, today announced that the Homeland Security funding bill before the House this afternoon contains funds to double passenger aircraft cargo screening, extend the only federal program that helps first responders and local stakeholders coordinate responses in the case of a terrorist attack, public health crisis or natural disaster, and provisions that prevent the Department of Homeland Security from preempting states’ stronger chemical security regulations. Rep. Markey has been a leading advocate on all of these issues.
“When just one package on a passenger plane could cause unimaginable damage, we need to do everything possible to ensure our all air cargo on passenger planes is screened, just as all passengers’ checked bags are screened before they’re loaded onboard and inspected. Today’s bill is another strong step forward on this front,” said Rep. Markey. “The security of our chemical plants is also paramount. There are nightclubs in New York City that are harder to get into than some of our chemical plants. While the Department of Homeland Security has failed to set comprehensive standards that would require the use of safer technologies and processes to reduce the consequences of an attack, states have taken the initiative to set their own stronger regulations. I am pleased that today’s bill reinforces states’ rights and prevents DHS from preempting stronger chemical security regulations set by the states.”

The bill before the House, H.R. 2638 the Homeland Security Appropriations bill for FY 2008, contains:
• $78 million for air cargo security to enable the Transportation Security Administration to double the amount of cargo carried on passenger aircraft that is screened for explosives before it’s loaded onboard.
• Provisions that prevent the Department of Homeland Security from preempting states’ stronger chemical security regulations
• $50 million for the only federal program that helps first responders, medical personnel, emergency management workers and local stakeholders coordinate their responses in the case of a terrorist attack, public health crisis or natural disaster. Rep. Markey has led the effort to save this program, the Metropolitan Medical Response System (MMRS), from elimination by the Bush Administration.

The MMRS program provides funds to 125 municipal authorities in 43 states – including in Boston, Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts - for local first responder planning, training, exercises, equipment, and pharmaceutical caches.

“Though the Bush Administration has tried repeatedly to eliminate this critical program, we in Congress have fought back each time. MMRS program is the only federal program that helps first responders, medical personnel, emergency management workers, and businesses develop effective, integrated capabilities to minimize casualties in the event of a terrorist attack using a weapon of mass destruction, a natural disaster such as a hurricane, or a public health emergency including an avian flu outbreak. Our MMRS personnel across the nation are hometown heroes. But even heroes need help,” concluded Rep. Markey.

H.R. 2638 is being debated on the House Floor this afternoon and evening with final passage expected this evening. The overall bill provides a total of $36.3 billion in discretionary spending for homeland security in FY 2008, which is $4.3 billion over FY 2007 and $2.1 billion over the President’s request. The bill is designed to fill key gaps in our homeland security such as additional Border Patrol agents, support for first responders, improving aviation security and improving port security.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 12, 2007

CONTACT: Jessica Schafer
202.225.2836