A couple of weeks ago, I went up to Maine to speak about identification issues at a community meeting in Augusta. This was the night before the state legislature voted overwhelmingly to reject the REAL ID Act. Maine's bold step catalyzed a nationwide rebellion, and states across the country are now passing resolutions to reject REAL ID.
Along with that resolution, the Maine legislature will be moving a bill that specifically prevents the secretary of state from spending any funds to comply with REAL ID. A real one-two punch.
Now, here's a little inside baseball: The resolution was introduced by the Democratic Majority Leader of the Senate, Libby Mitchell, and the bill was introduced by Republican Representative Scott Lansley. As can happen, Republicans were a little concerned that the Democrat-introduced resolution would eclipse the Republican-introduced bill in this Democrat-majority legislature. But Mitchell and Lansley got together to be the lead co-sponsors of each others' measures. Maine is doing the kind of bipartisan cooperation that is so rare in Washington, and Republican Lansley stands to get proper credit for his leadership on this issue. But . . .
Along comes U.S. Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, who this week confounded things by introducing a bill to defend and support the REAL ID Act. Her bill would give the DHS two more years to coerce states into implementing this national ID, and it would fiddle around the edges of the rulemaking process. Delaying implementation helps a national ID go forward in a big way because it gives the companies and organizations that sustain themselves on these kinds of projects time to shake the federal money tree and get this $11 billion surveillance mandate funded.
It's all very confusing. First of all, Senator Collins' move to support REAL ID faces right into a headwind known as "the will of the people of Maine." The state legislature overwhelmingly voted to reject REAL ID. Senator Collins, famous seeker of compromise, appears to be compromising not among the differing interests of her voters, but among the interests of her voters and the interests she hears from in Washington.
Secondly, Republican Collins is crossing up state Republican leaders like Scott Lansley and muddying the party's message at home. Someone is looking out-of-touch. (Hint: It's not Scott Lansley.)
The famously moderate Collins is backing a law that is most strongly favored by immoderate anti-immigrant groups.
Here's what is most bizarre: Collins is moving to support REAL ID even though it stripped out identification provisions in the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act that she is widely credited with crafting!
Senator Collins may be confused. I know I am. Unfortunately, her move to protect REAL ID has attracted some support. Senator Collins should disavow this bill as a blunder, or explain her conversion to support of the REAL ID Act and a national ID.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs chairman Joe Lieberman called the drivers license provisions of REAL ID "unworkable" when it was attached to a military spending bill and rammed through the Senate without a hearing or vote. The passage of an additional two years will make them no more workable.