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US government officials would get renewed power to combat dangerous drones under legislation House lawmakers introduced Thursday, just weeks before existing federal authorities are set to lapse.
The bipartisan bill (H.R. 8949), first obtained by Bloomberg Government, was introduced by House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.). The measure is narrower than a committee-approved Senate bill (S. 4687), backed by the White House, that would extend counter-drone authorities to the Transportation Security Administration and some state and local governments.
Federal officials have sounded alarms about drones in recent years, citing illegal flights across the US-Mexico border, into prisons, and around airports.
The House bill would renew existing authorities, which expire Oct. 5 and allow some officials in the Department of Homeland Security and the Justice Department to track and intercept dangerous drones. It also aims to increase transparency by requiring reports on how federal officials “address privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties issues,” among other issues.
The House bill would also require DHS and DOJ to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to ensure the technology used and the agencies’ actions don’t negatively affect air safety or the national airspace.
The measure doesn’t include the Biden administration’s request to provide direct authority for TSA, or provisions for a pilot program allowing state and local law enforcement agencies to take down drones with federal oversight. A House aide said lawmakers in that chamber aren’t comfortable with broader measures at this time.
The leaders of the Homeland Security Committee, Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and John Katko (R-N.Y.), cosponsored the bill with the leaders of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Sam Graves (R-Mo.).
The House legislation would need to move unusually fast to make it across the finish line in time for the Oct. 5 deadline. Lawmakers are likely to include a simple extension of existing counter-drone authorities in a stopgap budget bill expected to be released next week, according to an aide familiar with the discussions.
With assistance from Lillianna Byington
To contact the reporter on this story: Ellen M. Gilmer in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org