Maine’s Reps split on vote to ban sexual predators, violent criminals from working for TSA

Rep. Chellie Pingree (shown here in red jacket with Speaker Sara Gideon) split with Rep. Jared Golden on a vote on a hotly debated amendment ot the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act.

WASHINGTON D.C. – An amendment to the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act which would have forbidden TSA from employing people convicted of violent crimes, terrorism, crimes against children and sex crimes split Maine’s two members to the United States House of Representatives this week.

The amendment, proposed to the bill designed to provide TSA employees access to the same pay schedule and protections as other federal employees, was passed with the support of House Republicans and 41 Democrats. The amendment in question was originally proposed by two Democratic House members, but then pulled back.

House Leader Kevin McCarthy (R – California) blasted the Democratic opposition to the amendment after the vote, saying, “The socialist wing of the Democratic Party controls the floor. A Democratic member, Congresswoman Underwood, had the amendment and wanted to offer it. It was pulled back by leadership because the socialist wing of the party did not want to have that amendment go forward on this bill.”

“If you watched when it was offered, overwhelmingly, the majority of the House would like to see the TSA not hire terrorists, or those who’ve been convicted of sexual misconduct with minors and others. But the socialist wing of the party, that controls, now, the Democratic Party, said that could not be offered,” said Leader McCarthy.

But still, 174 Democrats, including Rep. Chellie Pingree banded together to vote against the amendment. Among those joining Pingree were Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Steny Hoyer. Speaker Nancy Pelosi did not cast a vote on the amendment. Maine’s other Representative to the House, Rep. Jared Golden, voted in favor of the amendment, joining 40 other Democrats in voting with Republicans to roll the amendment into the larger bill.

In the past, TSA agents have been arrested for a variety of offenses, including a TSA agent in California who tricked a woman into showing him her breasts twice, a TSA agent in Denver who was accused of twelve counts of sexual assault on three young girls, kidnapping and rape in Florida, child pornography, and making terroristic threats.

“The state of California announced the arrest and prosecution of a former TSA screener resulting from an FBI investigation,” said Rep. Debbie Lesko (R – Arizona) during the floor debate.

“According to the criminal complaint, the TSA screener used fraud or deceit to falsely imprison a woman going through security,” said Rep. Lesko.

Lesko then went on to say that while the screener in the incident she described was fortunately fired, under the proposed bill without the amendment, that screener could stay on the payroll for months or years. Lesko also recounted a litany of other misconduct by TSA employees across the country.

“We have two options today,” said Lesko. “Adopt the Underwood amendment and keep sexual predators off of the federal payroll or reject it and reward sexual predators with a paycheck from the taxpayer.”

A report from the Department of Homeland Security in 2015 found 73 airline employees were on terrorist watch lists.

While Rep. Pingree, like most who voted against the amendment, did not make a public statement about the vote, Rep. Val Demings (D – Florida) said that the amendment was unnecessary.

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