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WASHINGTON, DC – House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement this afternoon after the House passed H.R. 4954, the SAFE Port Act by a vote of 421 to 2. Before the vote on final passage, House Republicans defeated a Democratic effort to require that 100 percent of the shipping containers be scanned and sealed using the best available technology before being loaded onto ships destined for the United States:
“The port security bill that the House considered today contains many important measures that will strengthen our port security, and that is why it received wide bipartisan support. However, the fact is, our nation’s ports remain vulnerable – indeed, unacceptably vulnerable – nearly five years after the catastrophic attacks on September 11.
“I simply do not understand why House Republicans refuse to join Democrats in demanding that 100 percent of the shipping containers destined for the United States be scanned for radiological, biological and chemical agents before being loaded onto ships bound for our ports. If the United States of America can put a man on the Moon and send Exploration Rovers to Mars, then surely we can devise a practical process to check all containers coming into our country.
“Does anyone really believe that if the unthinkable occurred in an American port today that the American people would not immediately demand that every container coming into our ports be screened? We must not wait until the unthinkable occurs before we do what is necessary to shore up this national security vulnerability.
“Today, only 5 percent of containers coming into the United States are being inspected. Meanwhile, every container entering the truck gates at two of the world’s busiest container terminals – in Hong Kong – pass through scanning and radiation devices. If Hong Kong can take such security measures, surely the United States can, too.
“I am deeply disappointed that the Republican leadership refused to allow the House to vote on a Democratic amendment requiring that, within a three- to five-year period, all shipping containers be scanned and sealed using the best available technology before being loaded onto ships destined for the United States.”