What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Equal Access to Justice : H.R. 1401 (Rail and Public Transportation Security Act)/On motion to recommit with instructions
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H.R. 1401 (Rail and Public Transportation Security Act)/On motion to recommit with instructions
house Roll Call 200     Mar 27, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

This vote was on a procedural motion to amend a bill authorizing $6 billion over the next four years to improve transit security. Republicans successfully sought to include an amendment to give people who report suspicious activity on rail or bus lines immunity from lawsuits.

A motion to recommit with instructions is the minority's last chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. It's usually a symbolic vote, as the minority rarely wins. The Democrats almost always failed to pass motions to recommit under more than a decade of Republican rule in the House. But increasingly Republicans have been winning motions to recommit. When that happens, the bill is sent back to committee with instructions to include specific language outlined in the motion, and the change is then agreed to by voice vote on the House floor.

Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) moved to recommit the bill to the Homeland Security panel with instructions to include the amendment. He said during a floor speech that the amendment was prompted by an incident in November 2006 in which passengers on a U.S. Airways flight reported what they believed to be suspicious activity that resulted in six Muslim imams being removed from the plane. The removal prompted a lawsuit by the imams on grounds of what they believe to be discrimination, including a legal attempt to learn the identities of those who reported their activities as suspicious. King called such litigation "absolutely disgraceful." The citizens who reported them "acted in good faith," King said. The amendment would give legal immunity to any citizen who reports suspicious activity in good faith.

Rep. Bernie Thompson (D-Miss.) said he was opposed to the language partially on procedural grounds -- Republicans did not make it available until minutes before it was introduced. The bulk of his objection was substantive, however, as he pointed out that the imams have not been charged with a crime, and thus "why shouldn't they be able to seek remedy in a court of law?"

Thompson added that if people are profiled illegally, "they absolutely should have the ability to seek redress in a court of law." Furthermore, the language introduced by King did not define "good faith" sufficiently to prevent people from being singled out on the basis of their "religion, custom, or what have you."

A majority of the House sided with King, however, including 105 Democrats. Most of the House's most progressive Democrats voted against it. Republicans were unanimous in support of the amendment. By a vote of 304-121 a bill to authorize $6 billion for transit security was amended to include language giving persons who report suspicious activity on a rail or bus line in "good faith" immunity from lawsuits.

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