Southers withdraws TSA nomination
The Washington Post reported Wednesday morning the White House’s choice to head the Transportation Security Administration has withdrawn his nomination.
Erroll Southers was picked by President Obama in September to fill a year-old leadership void in the Department of Homeland Security, the agency charged with transport security.
Southers serves as assistant chief of homeland security and intelligence for Los Angeles World Airports and is a former FBI agent. He is also associate director of the University of Southern California’s Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events. He previously was deputy director of homeland security for California under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Earlier in his career he served as a detective in the Santa Monica Police Department and a special agent with the FBI.
The Senate Homeland Security and Commerce committees in late October voted to approve Southers to TSA administrator, but a confirmation vote was delayed by Republican Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who put a hold on his nomination.
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DeMint expressed concern that Southers will unionize TSA screeners at airports. Unions representing federal employees argue that TSA employees should have collective bargaining rights, and DeMint said Southers had not responded clearly to questions about whether he intended to reverse current policy and allow screeners to join a union.
Attacks against Southers’ nomination intensified when he acknowledged to lawmakers in November that he asked a contact within the San Diego Police Department to conduct a background check on his ex-wife’s boyfriend.
In a statement released by the White House this morning and subsequently reported in the Post, Southers said, ‘It is clear that my nomination has become a lightning rod for those who have chosen to push a political agenda at the risk of safety and security of the American people. This partisan climate is unacceptable and I refuse to allow myself to remain part of their dialogue.’
The Post further reported that the White House has not yet indicated whether it will pick a new nominee for TSA administrator or recommend the current Acting TSA Administrator Gail Rossides to the post.