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US Senate Majority Leader to Force Vote on Key TSA Nominee

Transportation Security Administration head oversees safety of U.S. airports, highways, railroads, ports and mass transit systems

U.S. Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid has announced he will force a vote on President Barack Obama's nominee to head the Transportation Security Administration when the Senate reconvenes next month.

Reid's announcement comes as one Republican senator, South Carolina's Jim DeMint, is holding up the nomination of counter-terrorism official Erroll Southers for the post.  Two Senate committees have approved the nomination, but DeMint has used a common delaying tactic to hold up a vote in the full Senate.

DeMint says he fears that Southers would allow TSA employees to unionize.

The TSA nomination has taken on new urgency since the failed attack on a U.S. airliner December 25.  Mr. Obama nominated Southers in September to head the agency, which is responsible for the safety of U.S. airports, highways, railroads, ports and mass transit systems.

Senate leader Reid accused Republicans in the Senate of playing politics with national security by holding up Southers' final confirmation.
 
Southers is a former FBI agent and counter-terrorism specialist.

Reid has said he will force a "cloture" vote, which would end the delay and force a straight yes or no vote on the nomination.

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