Burchett joins Connolly, Maloney to Introduce Passport Backlog Elimination Act
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (July 17, 2020) - Yesterday, U.S. Representatives Tim Burchett (TN-02), Gerry Connolly (VA-11), the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-12), the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, introduced the bipartisan Passport Backlog Elimination Act. The legislation would require the State Department to submit a plan to Congress to eliminate the passport processing backlog created by the coronavirus pandemic, as well as require an audit by the Inspector General on steps taken to eliminate the backlog. The members were also joined by Reps. Stephen Lynch, Adam Kinzinger and Kweisi Mfume.
“Last month, I led several of my colleagues in urging the State Department to begin processing millions of pending passport applications. I’m glad action has been taken to reduce this backlog, but it isn’t happening fast enough,” said Rep. Burchett. “I’m confident this legislation will provide clear guidance to my constituents and Americans across the country about when they can expect an answer regarding their passport application."
"Since June, I have been requesting a plan to eliminate the passport backlog. While I appreciate the progress that has been made, a backlog of 1.4 million applications remains unacceptable,” said Rep. Connolly. “Too many of our constituents are left in limbo, not sure if they will receive their passport in time and some don’t even know the status of their application. The legislation is a significant step in reducing the backlog and delivering this crucial service to our constituents."
"While the COVID crisis has affected workflow for countless employees across the country, the passport backlog is particularly troubling and damaging to more than one million Americans, many of whom are stuck abroad or unable to travel for work,” said Rep. Maloney. The State Department needs to be transparent about its plans to process outstanding passport applications to assure these citizens that they will get their documents soon and that it is doing everything possible to eliminate this backlog.”
“As the impact of the coronavirus crisis nears its sixth month, more than a million Americans have been unable to renew their passports,” said Rep. Lynch. “While the health and safety of federal employees is paramount, a massive backlog of passport applications also undermines our economic recovery and national security. I appreciate the work of Chairman Gerry Connolly and I am pleased to co-sponsor this important piece of legislation with my Oversight colleagues, which would require the State Department to submit a plan to eliminate the current application backlog."
"The backlog on passport processing is unacceptable and the lack of information provided to the American people has been negligent. I appreciate that steps have recently been taken to get things moving again, but as it stands, the problem remains severe and the information sharing has been lacking,” said Rep. Kinzinger. “I’m proud to introduce this legislation with my colleagues today, as we work to get much-needed answers for our constituents and ensure the American people have access to this important service.
"A passport is a vital tool for not only travel, but for employment purposes, as proof of citizenship, and other purposes,” said Rep. Mfume. “With a document so vital to the American people, a delay in processing is untenable. I am proud to co-sponsor this bill, as it rightfully holds the State Department accountable to the people we all serve."
On March 19, the State Department paused the passport application process and stopped taking new applications due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to the State Department website, “If you apply or renew now, you will experience significant delays of several months to receive your U.S. passport and the return of your citizenship evidence documents (such as birth certificates or naturalization certifications).” As of earlier this month, State Department had more than 1.43 million passports awaiting issuance. That same week, it received 112,000 applications and issued 188,000 passports. Between June 11-17, the backlog was 1.72 million.
Last month, Rep. Burchett led 34 of his colleagues in a letter urging the State Department to resume processing passport applications.
Text of the Passport Backlog Elimination Act is available here.