The House of Representatives approved a major ports security bill early Saturday, providing new steps to prevent terrorists from slipping a nuclear, chemical or biological device into one of the 11 million shipping containers entering the nation every year.
Passage of the bill was the last act of the House as lawmakers left for a five-week election campaign during which candidates in November 7 congressional elections will be trying to prove to voters their commitment to keeping America safe in the war on terrorism. The Senate also planned to endorse the bill before it recessed, sending it to the president for his signature.
Containers, now largely uninspected, "have the potential to be the Trojan Horse of the 21st century," said Republican Senator Susan Collins, chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. She said the legislation would be a "major leap ahead" in strengthening national security.
Democrats favored the bill, but said it failed to address rail and mass transit, other areas considered highly vulnerable to terrorist attack.