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Contact: Michael Maharrey
Communications Director
O: 213.935.0553 F: 213.402.3938

For Immediate Release: May 25, 2011

Feds threaten to shut down Texas air travel if TSA bill passes

The U.S. Department of Justice bullied Texas lawmakers into backing off proposed legislation that would make invasive TSA pat-downs without probable cause illegal.

HB1937 unanimously passed the Texas House on May 13. A week later, the bill passed favorably out of the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee. But a letter delivered to key senators from U.S. Attorney John E. Murphy on Tuesday stopped the bill dead in its tracks.

Murphy threatened to turn Texas into a no-fly zone should the bill become law.

“If HR [sic] 1937 were enacted, the federal government would likely seek an emergency stay of the statute,” Murphy wrote. “Unless or until such a stay were granted, TSA would likely be required to cancel any flight or series of flights for which it could not ensure the safety of passengers and crew,” he wrote. “We urge that you consider the ramifications of this bill before casting your vote.”

The ominous letter prompted senate sponsor Dan Patrick (R-Houston) to pull the bill.

Bill author Rep. David Simpson (R-Longwood) challenged the DOJ position.

“Instead of threatening to shut down flights in Texas, why doesn’t the TSA just show us their statutory authority to grope or ogle our private parts? All that HB 1937 does is require that the TSA abide by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We aren’t even prohibiting the pat-downs, per se. We’re just saying you can’t go straight to third base. You have to have a reason – you have to have probable cause – before groping someone’s sexual organs.”

Murphy backed up the federal threat with a Constitutional appeal.

“Under the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution, Texas has no authority to regulate federal agents and employees in the performance of their federal duties or pass a statute that conflicts with federal law,” he wrote.

TAC communications director Mike Maharrey pointed out that only federal laws made in pursuance of the Constitution stand supreme, and the clause does not grant the federal government carte blanche power to pass and enforce any old law it sees fit.

“Surely Mr. Murphy isn’t suggesting that the supremacy clause serves as a blanket under which federal agents can grope and fondle American citizens,” Maharrey said.

News of the federal threat quickly spread. An article posted on the Tenth Amendment Center website Wednesday morning was pummeled with hits, temporarily shutting down the server for a short time.

“This is clearly an issue that resonates with most Americans, regardless of their political viewpoint. People look at the TSA procedures and immediately get that they cross way over the line,” Maharrey said. “And this argument that it’s necessary to stand around in our socks and some stranger grope our private parts in order to ensure airline safety simply doesn’t fly. Nobody believes that. It’s like we’ve turned our creepy uncle loose in the airport, let him harass us and then quietly submit when he bullies us into sitting down and shutting up because he has a badge.”


The Tenth Amendment Center exists to promote and advance a return to a proper balance of power between federal and State governments envisioned by our founders, prescribed by the Constitution and explicitly declared in the Tenth Amendment. A national think tank based in Los Angeles, the Tenth Amendment Center works to preserve and protect the principle of strictly limited government through information, education, and activism.

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