Debate Over War-Funding Bill's Real I.D. Provision
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The US Senate has given final congressional approval to an $82 billion spending bill to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The measure passed unanimously. Even so, some senators made speeches against one provision that sets several standards for state driver's licenses. NPR's Brian Naylor reports.
BRIAN NAYLOR reporting:
The provision, known as the REAL ID Act, was attached to the spending bill by Republican leaders of the House of Representatives. They were keeping a promise to House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner who wanted REAL ID in the 9/11 intelligence reform bill late last year. Democrats objected to it, and under White House pressure, Sensenbrenner relented, but he first won a guarantee that REAL ID would be tacked on to the next must-pass legislation. That happened to be the bill funding the war in Iraq. The Pentagon says it's running out of money to pay for operations and no one in Congress wants to be seen holding up support for the 140,000 US troops on the ground there, but plenty of Democrats, among them Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, were angry that REAL ID was in the bill.
Senator HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (Democrat, New York): Emergency legislation designed to provide our troops the resources they need to fight terrorism on the front lines is not the place for broad sweeping immigration reform, and that's what the REAL ID is.
NAYLOR: The REAL ID Act forces states to require that driver's license applicants show proof of citizenship or legal status and that the document used for that proof be verifiable. Critics say it will become a de facto national ID card, and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin warned of a massive administrative nightmare.
Senator RICHARD DURBIN (Democrat, Illinois): If you think a trip to the Division of Motor Vehicle is a bad experience today, wait until the REAL ID takes effect. This isn't going to necessarily make America any safer but it'll make states a lot poorer.
NAYLOR: That's because critics say it will cost the states $500 million to $700 million to implement. Supporters call that an exaggeration, picking the cost closer to $100 million. States have three years to implement the new provision, although some have hinted they will resist. Meanwhile, the spending bill heads for the White House where President Bush is eager to sign it.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, the Capitol.
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