Bipartisan Passport Support Moves through House

( – Since the 2020 pandemic, Americans have faced long delays to get passports issued or renewed. With the huge backlog of applications, it usually takes seven to ten weeks between sending off for the vital document and receiving it. A Republican congressman is trying to sort out the mess, and in a rare example of bipartisan cooperation, he’s actually getting somewhere.

On December 13, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved the Passport System Reform and Backlog Prevention Act, which aims to modernize our creaking passport system and bring it into line with other countries. The bill’s author, Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) has ambitious goals; he wants to bring the time needed to process a passport application down to just 30 days by hiring more people for a “surge” to clear the backlog and modernizing the system for evaluating applications.

It’s no secret that our passport system is buckling under the strain. Earlier in 2023, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken admitted that “the bottom basically dropped out of the system” as demand first fell during the pandemic, then surged after it. It’s one of those things that everyone agrees is a problem but nobody could quite work out how to fix. Now Issa is offering a solution, and so far Congress is backing it.

Issa’s bill would authorize the State Department to hire dozens of contractors over the next three fiscal years to deal with the mass of applications logjammed in the system. At the same time, it calls for new systems with a dashboard for congressional staff to track constituents’ casework to be set up within two years and an app to inform applicants of how their passport application is doing inside four.

Issa says he’s tweaked the bill to bring more Democrats on board; he also says that, if there’s no opposition in the Senate, it could become law early next year. If he’s right, it will be a sign that Congress can work together to achieve things when it wants to — and it will also be good news for Americans who need a new passport without having to wait ten weeks for it.

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