NPR logo Airliner Bomb Puts Focus On TSA's Top Vacancy

Airliner Bomb Puts Focus On TSA's Top Vacancy

HuffPo's screaming anti-DeMint headline. Huffington Post screen shot. hide caption

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Huffington Post screen shot.

As some Republicans criticize the Obama Administration, charging it with lapses that led to Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab being allowed on a Northwest Air Lines flight from Amsterdam to Detroit allegedly with a bomb on his person,Democrats are fighting back by pointing out that Republican Sen. Jim DeMint has held up the nomination of the Transportation Security Administration because he opposes collective-bargaining rights for agency employees.

For part of Tuesday, the liberal made a McClatchy story on the delayed nomination its big, not-very-subtle top headline: "Playing Politics With Our Safety."

A snippet from McClatchy:

WASHINGTON — An attempt to blow up a trans-Atlantic flight from Amsterdam to Detroit on Christmas Day would be all-consuming for the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration — if there were one.

The post remains vacant because Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., has held up President Barack Obama's nominee in opposition to the prospect of TSA workers joining a labor union.

As al Qaida claimed responsibility Monday for the thwarted attack and President Barack Obama made a public statement about it, Democrats urged DeMint to drop his objection and allow quick confirmation of nominee Erroll Southers, a counterterrorism expert, when the Senate reconvenes in three weeks.

Not only liberals like those behind HuffPo wagging a finger at DeMint; so was a former Homeland Security Department inspector general, Republican Clark Kent Ervin. On NPR's Talk of the Nation Monday, he had this exchange with host Neal Conan:

MR. ERVIN: So, you know, part of the problem is that TSA does not have a permanent leader. Someone has been nominated, a very, very good man, Erroll Southers - who's the deputy chief of police at Los Angeles Airport - for this position, but he's yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Now, he alone, obviously, could not have prevented this incident on a Christmas Day, but I would argue better to have permanently leadership at TSA than not, particularly when it's very clear that al-Qaida remains focused on attacking our aviation system.

NEAL: Is the hang up in Congress?

Mr. ERVIN: The hang up is in Congress. A particular senator, Senator Jim DeMint from South Carolina is holding him up over the, I would argue, ancillary issue of collective bargaining rights for TSA employees. I happen to be opposed to collective bargaining rights, but be that as it may, the issue is we need somebody in charge of TSA who can make the kinds of decisions as to deploying technologies that need to be made.