Just what do the Republicans think they’re doing trying to revive the REAL ID Act? States have balked and citizens have balked. We don’t need or want an National ID card, yet the Republicans want to revive this issue? They need to remember they can be voted out of office as well next time if they aren’t careful. Tennessee rejected the Real ID Act in 2007…..good move.
A few years ago state legislatures across the nation were in an uproar over this law. The Department of Homeland Security was forced to delay implementation of it several times. But now it is back. You see, this is what the federal government often does. They will try to push something very unpopular through, and if they meet resistance they will “play dead” until the uproar has died down and then they will come right back and implement it anyway. This is what is happening with the Real ID Act.
House Republicans attempt to revive Real ID
If you’re a resident of one of at least 24 states including Arizona, Georgia, and Washington, your driver’s license may no longer be valid for boarding an airplane or entering federal buildings as of May 11, 2011.
That’s the deadline that senior House Republicans are calling on the Obama administration to impose, saying states must be required to comply with so-called Real ID rules creating a standardized digital identity card that critics have likened to a national ID.
The political problem for the GOP committee chairmen is that the 2005 Real ID Act has proven to be anything but popular: legislatures of two dozen states have voted to reject its requirements, and in the Michigan and Pennsylvania legislatures one chamber has done so.
That didn’t stop the House Republicans from saying in a letter this week to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that “any further extension of Real ID threatens the security of the United States.” Unless Homeland Security grants an extension, the law’s requirements take effect on May 11.
“If they don’t, people won’t be able to use their driver’s licenses to get on airplanes,” says Molly Ramsdell, who oversees state-federal affairs for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “They can use a military ID. They can use some other federal ID. But they won’t be able to use a driver’s license.” (See CNET’s FAQ.)
The situation represents a setback to Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), who championed Real ID as a way to identify terrorists and criminals. But instead of what supporters hoped would be a seamless shift to a nationalized ID card, the requirements have created a confusing patchwork of state responses–with some legislatures forbidding their motor vehicle administration from participating–and could herald chaos at airports unrivaled by any other recent change to federal law.
If Napolitano does not, air travelers from non-Real ID states would at least be subjected to what Homeland Security delicately calls “delays” and “enhanced security screening,” (which is unconstitutional….4th amendment) or perhaps even be denied boarding. In addition, driver’s licenses from non-Real ID states could no longer be used to access “federal facilities,” including military academies, the Pentagon, Treasury Department, the U.S. Capitol, Veterans Affairs hospitals, and some federal courthouses.
“Individuals with a driver’s license from a state that is not materially compliant with Real ID would need to go through a secondary screening”(unconstitutional….4th amendment) at airports, Wendy Riemann, Sensenbrenner’s communications director, told CNET yesterday. “I’m told this is what happens now if you were on vacation and lost your wallet and had to board a plane.” Riemann declined to answer what would happen inside federal buildings and courthouses, saying “I’m not about to get into hypotheticals.”
From the House Republicans’ perspective, the rules are clear: Real ID was signed on May 11, 2005, by President Bush, and federal agencies have had nearly six years to comply. The vote in Congress was overwhelmingly in favor of the law, part of a broader “war on terror” spending and tsunami relief bill that was approved unanimously by the Senate and by a vote of 368 to 58 in the House of Representatives. (Real ID cleared the House by a 261 to 161 vote as a standalone bill without hearings or debate.)
Since its enactment, its backers have been aggressively defending Real ID, noting that many of the hijackers on September 11, 2001, were able to fraudulently obtain U.S. driver’s licenses. Because Real ID links state DMV databases, establishes a standard bar code that can be digitally scanned, and mandates that original documents such as birth certificates be verified, backers claim the benefits extend beyond antiterror and ID fraud cases. (Extending it to firearm and prescription drug sales has not been ruled out.)
Many state governments have seen it differently and have responded by flatly refusing to abide by the federal requirements on privacy, federalism, and funding grounds. What started in early 2006 with a revolt in New Hampshire morphed into a full-scale rebellion, with dozens of states adoption opting out.