Ted Cruz's proposal for special airport security for judges and lawmakers facing threats is shot down

 April 30, 2024

Democratic Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson shot down a provision that would have provided lawmakers and judges under threat with special security at airports. The proposal was backed by Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz.

Thompson, the Democratic ranking member on the House Homeland Security Committee, blocked the proposal from the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill. The provision was first added to the legislation in February, but was removed as Congress extended the deadline to pass it until May 10.

The measure would have granted extra screening and security escorts to those officials who received credible threats. The provision would afford imperiled judges and lawmakers the same sort of protection that higher-ranking officials routinely receive.

Sources say that Thompson blocked it due to pressure from the Transportation Security Administration. The TSA was afraid that it would eventually be employed by all members of Congress.

The Objections

It's difficult to understand Thompson's reasons for objecting to the provision on the basis of waste. After all, government overspending has never been much of a concern for politicians.

Still, Thompson boasted about the final bill that would not include the added protection. "I’m glad that sanity prevailed and this provision – which almost no one really wanted – wasn’t included in the final FAA bill text," he said in a statement.

"Hopefully this issue is now put to rest. Congress should be focusing on improving TSA and keeping our skies more secure, not burdening its workforce and potentially diminishing security," Thomson added.

He went on to say that allowing lower-ranking officials the same protections as the higher-ranking officials would create "an unnecessary burden on TSA’s workforce" and that it was "prohibitively expensive and creates a completely unnecessary security vulnerability." The bill would actually allow these officials to circumvent the TSA and instead get a more secure screening.

Kevin Murphy, executive director of the Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network, raised similar objections earlier this year about requiring additional personnel. He claimed it would be "a burden to airport police agencies" and take police away from "crime suppression and security functions at airports, which is our fundamental duty."

A Troubling Pattern

Thompson's rejection might be part of a larger pattern. Last month, he introduced the "Denying Infinite Security and Government Resources Allocated toward Convicted and Extremely Dishonorable (DISGRACED) Former Protectees Act" that would strip officials convicted of a felony of Secret Service protection, Fox News reported.

Although he wasn't named in the bill, it was clearly aimed at former President Donald Trump. A fact sheet that accompanied the legislation mentioned that Trump faced an "unprecedented 91 felony charges in federal and state courts" that "created a new exigency that Congress must address" so he wouldn't receive special protection in prison.

"Unfortunately, current law doesn’t anticipate how Secret Service protection would impact the felony prison sentence of a protectee—even a former President," a statement from Thompson, who was on the Jan. 6 committee, explained.  "It is regrettable that it has come to this, but this previously unthought-of scenario could become our reality."

It also included language that would free up a judge from considering the Secret Service detail in sentencing. Instead of being forced into some sort of house arrest, the judge could impose actual prison time with his security personnel out of the picture.

These are dangerous times for lawmakers and judges, but especially for a former president who is now the current GOP presidential candidate. Thompson's reasons don't seem to hold up to scrutiny in either case.

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