Issa says passport reform is “long overdue” with the bill passing through a House committee with bipartisan support – LSB

Garima
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Legislation that would reform the passport processing system in order to end the massive backlog facing Americans has passed through a top committee with unanimous support, with the bill’s author saying it now has a good chance of becoming law early next year.

The Passport Reform and Backlog Prevention Act, which aims to reduce passport processing time, was unanimously approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, with both Democrats and Republicans voting in favor.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., told Fox News Digital he now hopes the bill will reach the president’s desk in early 2024.

GOP lawmakers want to eliminate the passport backlog with a sweeping reform bill

“It’s long overdue, but we took the time to get it right so we could get a unanimous vote,” he said.

“It’s not without surprise when you get consensus, even on something that one might think is uncontroversial.”

Darrell Issa California

Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican of California, speaks during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 10, 2021. (Ting Xin/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Americans have been facing long delays in processing passports since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the State Department currently estimating the delay at about seven to 10 weeks. The bill aims to bring processing up to the level of other countries, where delays are shorter and there is greater online functionality.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken He told lawmakers this year that during the COVID-19 pandemic, “the bottom has basically fallen out of the system” in the department handling both passports and visas due to a decline in travel demand, and the agency is still rebuilding as it tries to keep up with a massive surge in demand.

The bill aims to reduce renewal periods to 30 days, in part through the federal government’s use of technology and best practices. To achieve this, it not only sets standards for the government but also allows Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hiring dozens of personal service contractors each fiscal year 2024-2026 for consular affairs.

State Department warns of passport processing delays amid ‘unprecedented demand’

Specific goals include those related to cybersecurity, affordability, customer service, and geographic accessibility. The bill also requires the creation of a dashboard within two years to allow congressional staff to track issues for their constituents, a communication system for citizens to receive email and text message alerts about the status of their passport renewals, and an app for those communications. Within four years, it will require an Internet-based application system for first-time passports and additional software to adjudicate low-risk renewals.

The legislation also requires GAO to review the passport issuance process and see where additional improvements can be made, including potential collaboration with other agencies.

Since the bill was introduced, Issa’s office said there have been some changes regarding timelines and requirements in order to help garner additional support from Democrats, but the overall goal of the legislation remains the same.

The passport reform bill would require the creation of new systems to streamline applications for new and renewal passports (AP Photo/Eileen Putman)

Issa said the bill could be passed on its own or attached to larger legislation, but he said he would work to make sure it passes through Congress — including the Senate — without taking anything for granted.

“We don’t know of opposition per se in the Senate, but I will work with all offices to find out if there is any opposition, and if there is, to avoid it,” he said. “We believe this is the best route for quick delivery to the president’s desk.”

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Moving the bill forward comes at a time when Republicans and Democrats often struggle to find things to agree on, and Issa said that makes victories like this even more important.

“Doing the right thing never goes out of style, and at a time when there is so little working together, this type of legislation is especially important,” he said.

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