U.S. House says passport rule should be delayed

| 6/19/2007

The U.S. House Rules Committee chairwoman has announced the House “overwhelmingly” voted to delay implementing the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative – which includes passport rules for North American travel – until at least June 2009.

The House voted 268 to 150 in favor of the fiscal year 2008 Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, which delays the travel initiative’s air travel requirement.

The Bush administration already this month had delayed aspects of the initiative until late September. The initiative required U.S. passports for citizens flying to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda, but, was delayed until the end of September after the State Department failed to catch up to mounting backlogs of passport applications. Before the delay was announced, numerous U.S. travelers had already had to scrap or delay travel plans because of the passport request backlog.

Truck drivers have been awaiting the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement of a provision restricting land travel for Americans in North America.

“After over two-and-a-half years of fighting against WHTI, I am pleased to see that Congress overwhelmingly rebuked the administration today by delaying the implementation of the flawed program until mid-2009,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, according to a news release from her office.

“We sent a clear signal that we don’t trust the administration to get WHTI done right.”

Slaughter’s news release said language she included in the appropriations bill also requires Homeland Security to test its passport card and develop a plan for implementation of the land passport requirement.

– By Charlie Morasch, staff writer