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Laurel Lee Wants Customs and Border Protection to Work Closer With Seaports

This week, U.S. Rep. Laurel Lee, R-Fla., introduced a proposal “to ensure Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and seaports are partners in securing trade and travel.”

Noting that “recently, CBP has threatened to cease operations if ports do not pay for screening equipment, putting our national security at risk,” Lee explained why she brought out the “CBP SPACE Act.”

“Seaports contribute trillions of dollars to our economy every year while protecting our communities from dangerous contraband and harmful diseases. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) plays a critical role in helping our ports screen incoming cargo and visitors every day,” said Lee. “However, recent demands from CBP requesting ports pay for new and expensive equipment are highly concerning. What is more concerning is that CBP has threatened to reduce CBP officers at some ports and threatened to cease operations at others should their demands not be met. The lack of resources is both a major threat to our national security and would only further strain our congested supply chains.

“This bill ensures a portion of the Merchandise Processing Fees (MPF) will be used to fund CBP’s salaries, expenses, and capital costs associated with inspection operations. The security of our ports should not be hamstrung by CBP’s failure to properly allocate funds,” Lee continued.

U.S. Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Wash., is co-sponsoring the bill.

“Ports are critical to our economy in Southwest Washington. I’m grateful for Rep. Lee’s partnership on this bipartisan legislation to properly fund inspection services and ensure local small businesses don’t carry the expense of ensuring our imports are fentanyl-free,” she said.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) and ports leaders are also backing the bill.

“CBP is an indispensable partner in the important work of America’s seaports, and we are incredibly grateful for all the agency does to protect our nation and economy,” said Cary Davis, the president and CEO of the AAPA. “The agency’s costs and other operational needs, however, are historically and constitutionally a responsibility of the federal government, not of ports. Thank you to Congresswomen Lee and Gluesenkamp Perez for recognizing that the government is obligated to pay for customs inspections so ports can focus on other upgrades to keep cargo moving.”

“Port Tampa Bay and all of America’s seaports would frankly not be able to provide the service and value we do without the strong cooperation and vigilant service of CBP,” said Port Tampa Bay President and CEO and AAPA Board Chair Paul Anderson. “I am excited about this legislation from Representatives Lee and Gluesenkamp Perez that will provide CBP with what they need to keep us safe and secure while also protecting ports’ ability to continually modernize assets to keep goods moving quickly and safely through our supply chain.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee. So far, there is no companion bill over in the U.S. Senate.


  • Kevin Derby

    Originally from Jacksonville, Kevin Derby is a contributing writer for Florida Daily and covers politics across Florida.

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