Airport “pat-downs” have become an annoying aspect of travel in the post-9/11 era, and some Texas state lawmakers wanted to do something about it. But it appears that a conflict between the politicians and the Department of Justice has ended in an uneasy truce, averting the possibility that the Lone Star State would become a “no fly” zone.
A bill that would have barred agents of the Transportation Security Administration from conducting intrusive pat-downs had already cleared the Texas House, but it appears to be stalled in the Senate, National Public Radio reported on Thursday. (Both houses are solidly Republican.)
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas, John E. Murphy, warned leaders of both houses in a letter that the bill would conflict directly with federal law. “Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, Texas has no authority to regulate federal agents and employees in the performance of their federal duties or to pass a statute that conflicts with federal law,” Murphy wrote.
If you pass the bill, Murphy warned, the TSA would cancel flights out of Texas.
State Rep. David Simpson, who wrote the bill, was highly indignant. “Either Texas backs off and continues to let government employees fondle innocent women, children and men as a condition of travel, or the TSA will cancel Texas flights,” he said. “The Federal Government showed its willingness to bully the State of Texas if attempts to protect passengers from being forced to give up constitutional rights are not dropped.”
Simpson, a Republican, advertises himself as “passionate” about limiting government to its “proper role” and not interfering with individual rights.
Texas went to war with the United States before, as a member of the Confederacy, but maybe once was enough. After the letter from the U.S. Attorney, support for Simpson’s bill faded in the state Senate, no doubt to the disappointment of Simpson and others who would rather fight. You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em…