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House OKs postponing passport rule until June '09

June 16, 2007|From the Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Congress is moving to postpone until June 2009 a requirement for passports for land and sea travel to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and the Caribbean after complaints about delays by the State Department in issuing them.

The House passed the 17-month delay Friday after a key Senate committee approved it a day earlier.

The State Department has been flooded with applications since new rules went into effect in January requiring passports for air travelers returning from those destinations. 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 show they've applied for a passport.

The House voted 379-45 on Friday to include the delay as part of a $37.4-billion spending bill for the Homeland Security Department. The Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday approved the same provision as part of its version of the bill.

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

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