What: All Issues : Justice for All: Civil and Criminal : Equal Access to Justice : Authorizing $40 billion for the Homeland Security Department for fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1684)/Motion to recommit with instructions to authorize the agency to deploy a system to perform risk assessments of people entering the United States
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Authorizing $40 billion for the Homeland Security Department for fiscal 2008 (H.R. 1684)/Motion to recommit with instructions to authorize the agency to deploy a system to perform risk assessments of people entering the United States
house Roll Call 317     May 09, 2007
Y = Conservative
N = Progressive
Winning Side:
Conservative

This vote represented a Republican attempt to force an amendment to legislation authorizing $40 billion for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for fiscal 2008. The motion was to send the bill back committee with instructions to add language authorizing DHS to deploy the Automated Targeting System (ATS-P) at the border to collect information and perform risk assessments of people entering the country.

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 the amendment outlined in the motion, then the bill is immediately sent back to the House floor, where the change is agreed to by a separate voice vote.

Rep. Charles Dent (R-Pa.) made the motion to recommit. He said if Congress "truly serious" about implementing the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, then the motion would be adopted.

"The 9/11 Commission told us that we needed to develop a better border security system," Dent said. "The bottom line here is that ATS-P, after factoring in the available information, indicates to the Customs and Border Protection [CBP] officer whether an international traveler should be flagged for additional screening or questioning. That CBP officer retains the discretion to do with that information as he or she pleases. But by giving advance notice of an investigatory lead, ATS-P allows the officer and the agency to operate more effectively, to engage in screening that is risk-based."

Democrats opposed the implementation of the program on privacy grounds. Furthermore, Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said that it would detract personnel and resources from another border security program, called US-VISIT, not yet fully implemented and "put our government at further risk."

"What we need to do is to implement US-VISIT, integrate it with the new technology plan that is about to be brought online," Lofgren said. "It will be a dreadful mistake for the Congress to defer a Department that is not terrifically functional as is from this vital mission by creating still another program that will not actually do its job."

Customs and Border Patrol recently filed a Privacy Act notice informing the public that the agency had been utilizing the Automated Targeting System for 5 years without public disclosure. Many Democrats have called upon the agency, which operates under DHS, to reevaluate privacy concerns regarding the program. As of this vote, the agency had yet to answer the Democrats' questions about the programs' operations and data collection.

Nonetheless, Republicans found 66 Democrats to join them in their motion to recommit, which passed easily. Republicans were unanimous in their support, and the remaining 160 Democrats present voted against the motion. Thus, by a vote of 264 to 160, the House forced an amendment to a bill authorizing $40 billion for the Homeland Security Department for fiscal 2008 that would authorize DHS to deploy a border-security system that would assign "risk assessment" scores to individuals entering the United States. The legislation proceeded toward a final vote with this amendment now incorporated.

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