Baucus, Tester: Enough is enough with Real ID “boondoggle”

Senators respond to further delay in de facto national ID

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Amid the reports of yet another delay in the implementation of the federal Real ID Act, Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester reaffirmed their opposition to the national identification system.

The federal Real ID Act calls for drivers' licenses to be used as a national identification networking system, requiring extensive private information from all U.S. citizens.  It would also require states to standardize their drivers' licenses at their own expense.

The Department of Homeland Security announced today that states would have until May 2011 to implement new regulations that would require its citizens to submit a digital photograph, birth certificate and other information to their department of motor vehicles.  Today's delay marks the second time in a year that implementation has been pushed back by the Bush administration as concern has grown about how the states could reissue all 240 million existing licenses.

Baucus and Tester noted that Montana motorists would have their privacy endangered by having a central database of sensitive, confidential information that may be stolen by identity thieves.  Moreover, the cost of implementation of the Act—which some estimates have placed as high as $23 billion—would fall on state and local governments.

"We need to be serious about fighting terrorism and keeping this country safe, but we don't need to do it by jeopardizing Americans' privacy and creating another bureaucracy," Baucus said.  "This reaffirms that Real ID needs to be repealed. It's time we look at realistic ways to defend our homeland that don't include shifting unfunded mandates onto Montana.  Real ID is a really bad idea."

Tester, a member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee and a staunch supporter of privacy rights, said Real ID isn't needed to toughen national security.

"From the start the Real ID Act has been a fancy way of saying 'national identification cards' and it's a textbook Washington boondoggle," Tester said.  "The people of Montana have spoken.  They don't want a Big Brother program that will infringe on their privacy and they certainly don't want to foot the bill."

In April, the Montana legislature passed legislation opting out of the federal Real ID Act.  The bill, which passed the legislature unanimously, was signed into law by Governor Schweitzer and made Montana one of 17 states opposing the Act.

Sens. Baucus and Tester have undertaken a number of efforts to reject Real ID in the Senate. They are co-sponsors of the Identification Security Enhancement Act, a bipartisan bill that repeals the federal Real ID Act and gives states more flexibility in fighting terrorism.  

A Baucus-Tester measure also rejected the inclusion of Real ID as a part of the Employment Verification System proposed by the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007.  The immigration bill effectively died after the Senate tried and failed to table the measure.