Senator Stevens Press Conference on Port Security Legislation

September 12, 2006

Thank you very much. We have pulled port security out of the major bill that we introduced before Senate bill 1052 and worked with the Finance Committee and the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee to try and develop a bipartisan bill to deal with port security.  90 percent of the freight and cargo that comes in the United States comes in through the ports.  We thought that would be the place to emphasize.  Senator McCain offered a rail amendment to add to that, and most of the ports do use rail to transport the cargo out of the ports.  So, we accepted that amendment last week.  Now we’re in the position of facing this amendment.  This is the amendment that Senator Reid has just introduced, a nine page table for it.  It includes all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, intelligence reform, legislation concerning the detainees, Iraq contractors, a whole foreign policy section, and transportation security, and now we have the problem of figuring out a way to get through this in order to get back to the real basic problem, which is port security.  I think really we have a lot of good provisions in this bill.  It’s not possible to go immediately to a hundred percent inspection and a hundred percent radiation of all of our cargo.  We do have sections requiring disclosure of any cargos loaded into containers coming into the United States.  We add 725 new customs and border agents, 50 new inspectors for the Customs Trade Partnership against Terrorism.  We provide that by 2007 radiation detection of all containers entering into the 22 busiest seaports must be in place.  We’re trying to proceed as fast as we can with dealing with port security.  This bill has been out of our committee over a year, and we couldn’t get it up because of objections.  Now that we’re bringing up just the port security and the rail security we have this.  So I don’t know what progress we’re going to make this week, but I’m very discouraged.