Prospects fade for quick Real ID repeal

Congress appears increasingly unlikely to repeal a sweeping driver's license law by the end of the year, which may force the Homeland Security Department to grant blanket waivers to states unable or unwilling to issue licenses that meet federal security standards.

Without the waivers or a congressional repeal, the Real ID law goes into effect Jan. 1. Officials across the country fear that would set off a situation that could include a requirement that tens of thousands of airline passengers go through secondary screening at airports every day.

Senate Democrats have been unable to get an agreement from Republicans to bring legislation to the floor that would repeal Real ID, which many federal and state officials say is unworkable and some consider an unfunded mandate from Washington.

The legislation, dubbed the PASS ID bill, was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in July but since then has been in limbo. Democrats concede the bill will not move until after the Senate acts on healthcare legislation, which is expected to consume much of the rest of this year's session.

"Because Republicans are continuing to block the legislation, we will not be able to consider the bill until we complete health reform," a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Tuesday.

State officials fear major problems if the PASS ID bill is not enacted this year. The bill would require states to issue driver's licenses that are compliant with federal security standards by 2016 and create a $150 million grant program to help states digitize birth records.

Last week, the National Governors Association urged House and Senate leaders to get the PASS ID bill through Congress soon.

"Based on a survey of our states, we believe that as many as 36 states will not meet the requirements of Real ID by the end of the year," the governors wrote in a letter to Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and House Minority Leader John Boehner, D-Ohio.

"Since Real ID was enacted, states have maintained that its timelines and requirements are unrealistic and constitute a huge unfunded mandate with costs far outpacing federal funding," the letter added.

It was not immediately clear which Republicans were holding up the PASS ID bill.

But one possible way to avert the situation might be for Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to grant waivers to states in December, declaring them to be in compliance with Real ID requirements even if they are not.

Homeland Security set a precedent for this in spring 2008, when waivers were granted to states to avoid a looming deadline. Some states, such as South Carolina, received waivers even though they did not request them and had no plans to comply with Real ID's requirements.

Homeland Security spokesman Matthew Chandler said states have until Tuesday to request waivers.

"Since January, Secretary Napolitano has supported the efforts of governors and Congress to enact PASS ID, which provides greater flexibility to states while enhancing driver's license security across the country," Chandler said. Officials "are ever more aware of the serious problems states will have with implementing REAL ID," he added.

"We urge Congress to act now on the PASS ID Act, which will resolve an impasse with the states and fulfill a key 9/11 Commission recommendation that will ensure the smooth flow of travel after December 31, 2009, and the security of all state-issued identification cards," Chandler said.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.