Another Republican opposes TSA nominee Erroll Southers 

The top Republican on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure is urging Republican Sen. Jim DeMint to stand firm in opposing the nomination of Erroll Southers to head the Transportation Security Administration.

On Monday Rep. John Mica, who played a key role in the creation of the TSA in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, sent a letter to DeMint outlining a number of concerns about the Southers nomination. Although Mica, as a member of the House, has no role in considering the Southers nomination, the letter provides support for DeMint's so-far lonely role as the only Senate Republican to publicly oppose Southers.

Among Mica's concerns: Southers' qualifications, the Obama White House's slowness in nominating him, the administration's handling of TSA, and the issue of whether TSA screeners will be unionized, giving them the same union job protections that make change at other federal agencies a slow and difficult process.

"Filling this critical position has been a low priority of the Obama administration," Mica writes, noting that 326 Obama officials had been nominated and confirmed by the time the president got around to sending the Southers nomination to the Senate in September. Committee chairmen in the Senate kept the Southers nomination in committee for another two months, meaning the issue did not come to the attention of the full Senate until November 20 -- a delay entirely attributable to the Democratic majority.

"With the TSA almost rudderless for the past year and the Department of Homeland Security dysfunctional and under siege from all quarters, it is absolutely imperative that only the most highly-qualified person with extensive high-level administrative or executive experience fill this position," Mica writes. "Even a cursory review of Erroll Southers' background raises significant questions regarding his capacity to provide the experience necessary to redirect this besieged agency of over 60,000 employees. In fact, in both the Los Angeles Airport Police force and his California State Homeland Security positions, it is troublesome that he only served in deputy, second-tier levels. I have very serious misgivings concerning the strength of the qualifications of this nominee." Recent revelations that Southers misled a Senate committee about an incident in his past "only deepen my concern," Mica writes.

Mica also cites reports "circulating in the security community" to the effect that Southers was not the administration's first choice for the TSA job and that "far more qualified individuals were unwilling or reluctant to serve and only after months of searching for a willing nominee was Mr. Southers finally nominated." That, Mica concludes, raises "serious and fundamental questions concerning the revolving door management of the TSA."

Finally, on the issue of unionizing TSA, Mica writes, "As TSA continues its downward spiral in performance, granting TSA screeners collective bargaining rights would be a devastating blow to both our national security as well as a long-standing bipartisan agreement that TSA screeners would not be subject to Title V protection provisions should they fail to perform their security responsibilities. Any nominee who fails or refuses to respond to such a critical issue is unfit to serve."

Southers has the support of all Senate Democrats. Among Republicans, he has the support of Sen. Susan Collins, ranking GOP member of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee -- the committee to which Southers gave misleading testimony regarding an incident 20 years ago in which he improperly accessed a criminal database as part of a domestic dispute. So far, DeMint remains the only Senate Republican to publicly say he will vote against the Southers nomination.

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