- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 22, 2008

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff has denied a request by key senators on both sides of the aisle to delay the deadline for states to comply with new federal regulations for state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards.

Mr. Chertoff rebuked the lawmakers for requesting that the congressionally mandated timeline be changed to implement Real ID, saying “this plain statutory language mandates the May 11 deadline.”

“You may disagree with the foregoing law, but I cannot ignore it,” Mr. Chertoff said to the lawmakers in a March 20 letter.

Lawmakers who called the deadline “arbitrary and ineffective” include Republican Sens. Susan Collins and Olympia J. Snowe of Maine and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire; plus Democratic Sens. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, and Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana.

“These regulations raise disturbing constitutional issues regarding the ability of some citizens to travel freely and access their federal government,” the lawmakers wrote in a March 12 letter to Mr. Chertoff.

States have until March 31 to request an extension to enroll in the program to set standards for determining which state-issued identifications are secure enough to be accepted by the federal government, which determines whether those IDs are good for such purposes as boarding commercial flights and entering federal buildings.

Miss Collins said she was “disapointed” by Mr. Chertoff’s decision.

The Associated Press reported that South Carolina, Maine, and Montana are the only states that have not sought extensions to comply with the new program, which is expected to cost nearly $4 billion.

New Hampshire asked for an exemption, but it has not been granted.

The National Governors Association on Thursday announced it will support the program’s creation, which was recommended by the September 11 Commission, but asked Congress for $1 billion in initial funding.

Mr. Chertoff said the Real ID program “does not amount to a federal identification program” as its critics have charged.

“It is a program that will set standards for the security of state-issued licenses and identification cards that are offered for federal purposes,” Mr. Chertoff said in the letter.

“Congress has mandated that there will be very real implications after May 11 for residents of states whose leadership chooses to reject Real ID compliance,” Mr. Chertoff said.

“Showing up at the airport with only a driver’s license from such a state will be no better than showing up without identification,” he said.

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