12.09.09

Leahy Urges Congress To Pass REAL ID Fix

WASHINGTON (Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009) – At a hearing on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) urged the Senate to quickly approve legislation designed to fix problems in the national driver’s license program commonly referred to as REAL ID.

Leahy is a leading sponsor of the bipartisan PASS ID Act, legislation that would implement the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations to enhance the security of drivers licenses, while fixing many of the most troubling aspects of the REAL ID Act of 2005.

“Senator Akaka introduced, and I cosponsored, a bill called PASS ID, that makes reasonable modifications to REAL ID,” said Leahy.  “The bipartisan National Governors Association supports this bill.  The PASS ID bill awaits action by the Senate floor, but that action is being prevented by a hold.  I urge that hold be lifted so that we can make progress before the busy holiday travel season.”

Leahy made the comments at a Department of Homeland Security Oversight hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs.  Secretary Janet Napolitano testified.   

Congress passed REAL ID as part of an emergency spending bill in 2005.  The legislation established requirements for state-issued driver’s licenses that must be met in order for the documents to be accepted as identification by the federal government.  The mandates have proven to be unworkable and overly burdensome for state officials, and widely unpopular among citizens.  The National Governors Association has said that as many as 36 states may fail to comply with the REAL ID Act by the December 31, 2009, deadline.  While all states have made progress in improving identification security, many are unable or unwilling to fully implement REAL ID.   Fourteen states have enacted laws prohibiting compliance with REAL ID and several others, including Vermont, have passed anti-REAL ID resolutions.

The PASS ID Act calls for enhanced security and integrity of driver’s licenses and identification cards while addressing the concerns the states and citizens have with the REAL ID Act.  

As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Leahy in May 2007 held one of the first congressional hearings on the privacy and civil liberties concerns raised about REAL ID in Vermont and many other states.   

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