June 17, 2007

House votes to delay passport rule

WASHINGTON -- Outrage caused by passport application delays is fueling a drive by Congress to postpone requiring Americans to have the documents to re-enter the U.S. from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda.

The State Department has been flooded with applications since new rules requiring passports for air travelers went into effect in January. The resulting backlog has caused delays of up to three months for passports and ruined or delayed the travel plans of thousands of people.

In response, the government last week temporarily waived a passport requirement for air travel, provided people can demonstrate they've applied.

But the Homeland Security Department is pressing ahead to require passports of everyone driving across the border into Canada or Mexico beginning in January 2008 -- a rule that could lead to an even bigger increase in demand.

A 379-45 House vote Friday to delay the rules for 17 months matches a provision included in the Senate's version of a homeland security spending measure, approved by the Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

The Bush administration opposes delaying the rules, but the big House vote suggests its opposition can be overcome.

"Nobody can say with a straight face that the federal government is ready for this," said Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio. "My amendment simply asks the DHS to slow down and get it right this time."

By ANDREW TAYLOR Associated Press
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