Swalwell gathers foes of TSA’s new knife policy

Almost 60 House members so far from both sides of the aisle have signed a letter co-authored by an East Bay lawmaker expressing concern about the new Transportation Security Administration policy allowing knives on planes.

TSA revised their prohibited items policy to allow certain knives and sports equipment in airplane cabins; the new policy is set to take effect on April 25. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Pleasanton, and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. – ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee – are circulating the letter.

At a hearing yesterday, TSA Administrator John Pistole acknowledged his agency hadn’t properly engaged stakeholders like flight attendants before reaching its decision. The letter calls on TSA to withdraw the new policy until it has consulted adequately with flight attendants, pilots and transportation security officers.

“The support for our letter objecting to TSA’s decision by Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle validates the general consensus that this is a foolish policy that could, in a worst-case scenario, seriously harm Americans,” Swalwell, a freshman member of the Homeland Security Transportation Security Subcommittee, said in a news release. “Based on my conversation with Administrator Pistole yesterday at the Homeland Security Committee hearing, I am more convinced that TSA should not implement this policy.”

The letter is supported by the American Federation of Government Employees, the Coalition of Flight Attendant Unions, the Coalition of Airline Pilots Associations, the Federal Flight Deck Officer Association and the National Association of Police Organizations. The letter will keep circulating through Tuesday; the only Bay Area member besides Swalwell to have signed it so far is Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa.

Here’s Swalwell questioning Pistole at yesterday’s hearing:

UPDATE @ 4:04 P.M. THURSDAY 3/21: 133 House members ended up signing this letter, including greater Bay Area Reps. Mike Thompson, D-Napa; Mike Honda, D-San Jose; Sam Farr, D-Santa Cruz; Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael; Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose; and Barbara Lee, D-Oakland.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • Elwood

    Looks like Swalwell didn’t get the memo that freshmen Congressmen are supposed to be seen and not heard.

    He and I are probably pretty much at opposite ends of the political spectrum, but good on him!

  • JohnW

    I think that is more of a Senate than a House “rule.” In the Senate, Texas freshman Ted Cruz didn’t get the memo. Diane Feinstein really unleashed her wrath on him during the assault weapons ban committee hearing this week. During the Secretary of Defense confirmation hearing, John McCain did the same to Cruz. He’s developing a prima donna reputation among his colleagues in both parties.

    I don’t blame the airline employees for protesting the policy. However, I think TSA has a point. Their reasoning is that they spend so much time screening for and confiscating pocket knives that it diverts their attention from looking out for small explosives that would bring down a plane. If you try to equally focus on everything, you end up prioritizing nothing. But I still sympathize with the flight attendants.

  • GV Haste

    Swalwell is getting the hang of it.
    Those in the old Alameda County Democratic Party “establishment” who think they are gonna take him out in 2014, by running a “real” party pro, are going to be rudely surprised, just as they were in 2012.

    Monderate Democrats, independents, and the limited number of Republicans, have been waiting for 4 decades to get some sensible middle of the road candidates who weren’t beholden to those on the extremes and those entirely in the pockets of the public employee unions.

    In short, a large segment of the public is tired of the “tired” candidates we’ve had pushed on us.

    Now, the November general election will be the real election, where everyone counts.

  • RR senile columnist

    TV cable news has made celebs of freshmen in both chambers. It wasn’t always so. In 1959, thenCongressman Daniel Inouye introduced himself to Speaker Sam Rayburn. “I know who you are, ” Mr Sam said. “How many one-armed Japs are there in the House?”

  • JohnW

    That’s a great anecdote about Sam Rayburn and Daniel Inouye. Never heard that one before.