July 11, 2023
WASHINGTON D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Pete Ricketts (R-NE), a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, joined with Senator James Lankford (R-OK) to introduce the Passport Act. This legislation would address the historic passport backlog Americans are facing.
In addition to the bill, Ricketts has also introduced three amendments for the Department of State Authorization Act that will be marked up at a Committee on Foreign Relations business meeting later this week. The amendments provide taxpayers with more visibility into the processing of their passports and improved customer service, while also ensuring that the Department of State is better prepared for passport processing in a future national emergency.
“A few years ago, Nebraskans were calling their representatives a couple of times a month with passport delays. For that number to now be in the hundreds is unacceptable,” Ricketts said. “American taxpayers deserve better than cancelling trips or missing opportunities to visit family because of bureaucracy failures. The State Department needs to address the failing systems in place and solve this problem swiftly. I’m proud to join Senator Lankford on these solutions to improve the current backlog and prevent backlogs from reaching these levels in the future.”
“Oklahomans shouldn’t have to face months-long delays because the State Department isn’t processing passports quickly enough,” said Lankford. “My office regularly hears from families who are forced to miss out on visiting loved ones or cancel vacations they saved for years to take due to the massive backlog. This has been a problem since 2020 that I have pushed the Department of State to resolve. These amendments are designed to address the root cause of the breakdown and provide straightforward solutions to fix the current backlog and prevent it from reaching historic levels again.”
The Passport Act was first announced by Lankford last month and was formally introduced today with Ricketts as an original co-sponsor. Ricketts previously addressed the unacceptable passport backlog at a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing in June. Video of that hearing is available here.
The amendments Ricketts introduced to address the passport backlog in the State department Authorization bill are pulled from Sections 5, 6, and 7 of the Passport Act. The amendments are focused on having a passport processing plan in light of a national emergency, requiring a customer visibility feature so applicants can view the status of their passport, and adding a chat feature to the National Passport Information Center.
The Passport Act would address the current delays by:
- Establishing a 12-week processing time requirement and refuse any remote work requests until the timeline can be met.
- Requiring procedures to avoid processing backlogs in the case of future national emergencies.
- Developing a reserve workforce that can be reassigned to support Passport Services during high demand.
- Improving the online status tool to provide more information to applicants.
- Adding a chat feature to National Passport Information Center (NPIC) call line.
- Initiating investigation into the quality of customer service, wait times, and technology failures of NPIC.
- Expanding in-person appointments at regional passport offices.
To join Senator Ricketts’ press list, please click here.