Some of the same Republican lawmakers currently criticizing the President for softness on terrorism voted back in July 2007 against legislation that, among other reforms, provided $250 million for airport screening and explosive detection equipment.
The Improving America's Security Act of 2007 was a relatively non-controversial measure that effectively implemented several un-acted-upon recommendations from the 9/11 Commission. Eighty-five Senators voted in favor of the bill's passage. Seven missed the vote (several of whom were on the campaign trail, including Barack Obama, John McCain and Chris Dodd).
Eight Republican Senators, however, voted against passage, including Sens. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Tom Coburn (R-Okl.) Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), James Inhofe (R-Okl.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ari.).
The opposition was, at the time, a bit perplexing, considering the praise the legislation received from many of the revered members of the 9/11 Commission itself. Now, following a botched terrorist attack that nearly brought down an airliner over the city of Detroit -- and subsequent conservative complaints that Democrats mishandled matters of national security -- the bill and that vote contain obvious, additional meaning.
The Improving America's Security Act of 2007 mandated 100 percent inspections of air and sea cargo, authorized $4 billion for rail, transit and bus security, and changed methods of allocating security funds so that states and cities with greater risks received a greater share of money.
More relevant to current times, the bill provided the Transportation Security Administration with the authority to use $250 million in funds to "purchase, deployment, installation, research, and development of equipment to improve security screening for explosives at commercial airport checkpoints." It also urged the TSA to "to deploy such technologies quickly and broadly to address security shortcomings at passenger screening checkpoints."
Additionally, the legislation included provisions that required the Department of Homeland Security to "submit a strategic plan to Congress that describes the system to be utilized for comparing [airline] passenger information to watch lists; explains the integration with international flights; and provides a projected timeline for testing and implementation its advanced passenger prescreening system."
Such synchronicity clearly failed the DHS in detecting the failed attempt by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to blow up a transcontinental flight above Detroit. But casting a vote against a basic reform of watch-list procedure back in 2007 could complicate the capacity for the GOP to criticize the administration's handling of security breaches today.
DeMint, for one, has accused President Obama of pursuing a homeland security policy that "downplayed terrorism." Graham, meanwhile, has raised concerns about President Obama's decision to transfer terrorist suspects from Guantanamo Bay to Yemen.