Today the U.S. Senate passed a landmark port security bill, the Port Security Improvement Act of 2006 (H.R. 4954) by a vote of 98-0.
The legislation incorporates components of the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act (S. 2459) and the Public Transportation Terrorism Prevention Act of 2006 (S. 2791)
"Today we have taken a giant step to improve the safety of ports in Washington and across the country," said Senator Patty Murray (D. Wash.), the author of the GreenLane legislation. "By raising security standards and investing in cargo security, we will close a dangerous security gap and keep our country safe."
Today's vote marks the culmination of a five-year effort by Senator Murray to implement cargo security measures at U.S ports. The legislation passed today is a result of Murray's collaboration with Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chair, Senator Susan Collins (R. Me.).
Senator Murray approached Senator Collins over a year ago to work on a bill to protect America's ports. Together, they introduced the GreenLane Maritime Security Act.
The Act also authorizes port security grants, the Container Security Initiative and C-TPAT.
The Senate bill must be reconciled with the House version and both chambers must approve the final bill before it can be sent for signature.
Senator Murray has worked on today's legislation since the attacks of September 11th. The following is a summary of her efforts leading up to today's passage:
Post-September 11, 2001: Senator Murray begins talking to port security experts, industry and government officials regarding cargo security measures. Senator Murray holds three Senate hearings on cargo security: one in Washington, D.C. (3/21/02) and two in Seattle (4/4/02 and 7/1/02).
July 2002: Senator Murray writes and funds Operation Safe Commerce Ð the first research, development, testing and evaluation program to enhance port, cargo and supply chain security.
June 2003: Senator Murray wins a battle with the Bush Administration and succeeds in restoring funding for Operation Safe Commerce, which the Administration had tried to cut.
November 5, 2003: Senator Murray meets with shippers and officials from 8 ports to discuss cargo security measures.
December 9, 2003: Senator Murray visits the Ports of New York and New Jersey and meets with port officials, terminal operators, customers and law enforcement agencies to discuss what's needed to secure cargo while keeping it efficient.
January 30, 2004: Senator Murray writes to Admiral James Loy, Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security, asking why DHS is creating new, disjointed cargo security programs that are not based on the best practices. Murray calls for a coordinated, "large-scale, operational cargo security program."
February 2004: At three hearings, Senator Murray questions Bush Administration officials about the President's proposed cuts to cargo security programs. Murray questions OMB Director Josh Bolton and DHS Secretary Tom Ridge.
March 2004: Senator Murray is named "Person of the Year" by the American Association of Port Authorities for her work on Operation Safe Commerce, advancing maritime initiatives, holding hearings on cargo security, and boosting funding for the Coast Guard.
January 2005: Senator Murray begins meeting with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, including Secretary Ridge, Deputy Secretary Loy (Adm.), and Bureau of Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Robert Bonner to discuss the progress of port, cargo and supply chain security programs.
February 2005: Senator Murray begins meeting with the Import/Shipping industry to discuss proposals to enhance port, cargo and supply chain security.
March 2005: Senator Murray begins meeting with labor officials regarding proposals to enhance port, cargo and supply chain security.
May 5, 2005: Senator Murray meets with Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee Chair, Senator Collins (R-ME) to discuss a proposal to enhance port, cargo and supply chain security.
June 2005: Senators Murray and Collins begin writing the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act.
July 7, 2005: Senator Murray outlines the principles behind the GreenLane bill to the Washington Council on International Trade.
November 15, 2005: Senator Murray introduces S. 2008, the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act, with Senators Collins, Coleman (R-MN) and Lieberman (D-CT). Senators Feinstein (D-CA), Snowe (R-ME) and DeWine (R-OH) are also co-sponsors.
March 14, 2006: Congressman Dan Lungren (R-CA) introduces H.R. 4954, the SAFE Ports Act of 2006 with 45 original co-sponsors, including Congresswoman Jane Harman (D-CA).
March 27, 2006: Senator Collins re-introduces the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act (S. 2459) with Senators Murray, Coleman and Lieberman, which was referred to the HSGAC.
March 28, 2006: House Committee on Homeland Security favorably reports H.R. 4954, the SAFE Ports Act, with amendments.
April 5, 2006: Senator Murray testifies on the GreenLane bill as it gets a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
May 2, 2006: The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGAC) favorably reports the GreenLane Maritime Cargo Security Act (S. 2459), with amendments.
May 4, 2006: The full House approves H.R. 4954, the SAFE Ports Act, by recorded vote of 421 Ð 2 (Roll no. 127).
July 26, 2006: HSGAC and Senate Commerce Committee issue compromise port security legislation.
July 27, 2006: Senator Murray speaks before the August recess, urging the full Senate to take up consideration of the GreenLane bill.
September 7, 2006: Senate HSGAC, Commerce and Finance Committees issue compromise port security legislation.
September 7, 2006: the Port Improvement Security Act of 2006, based on Senator Murray and Collins' original GreenLane legislation, is introduced in the U.S. Senate.
September 12, 2006: Senator Murray secures a dedicated funding source for the GreenLane cargo security bill. The funding will stem from the extension of two existing customs fees.
September 14, 2006: Senator Murray's GreenLane Port Security legislation passes the full Senate by a vote of 98-0.