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Politics 7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports

00:16  04 june  2020
00:16  04 june  2020 Source:   thehill.com

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Seven GOP senators are calling on the State Department to continue renewing passports despite travel advisories and lockdowns put in place due to the pandemic.

Rick Scott, James Lankford, John Barrasso are posing for a picture: 7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports © Greg Nash 7 GOP senators slam State Dept for 'slow and inefficient policy' on passports

The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, was spearheaded by Republican Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), who last week called for the department to resume passport applications after learning they paused the application process for 1.6 million Americans when they stopped taking new applications on March 19.

The lawmakers, who include Sens. Lankford, John Cornyn (Texas), David Perdue (Ga.), Kelly Loeffler (Ga.), Kevin Cramer (N.D.), John Boozman (Ark.) and Mitt Romney (Utah), called the policy "unacceptable," "inadequate" and "slow and inefficient."

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The other two GOP senators in the delegation are Mike Lee, of Utah, and Dean Heller, of Nevada. An embassy official merely stated , “As a general policy we won’t comment on guest list.” There are currently 47 Democratic senators and 193 Democratic members of the House of Representatives.

"We hope you will take steps to correct and improve this plan to ensure the Department is not partially responsible for stifling international commerce at a time when our nation is eager to resume economic activity," the lawmakers wrote.

On the State Department's website, the agency claims people who submitted applications before operations were limited on March 19 will experience "significant delays of several months."

Only people who can prove they are facing a "life-or-death emergency" can apply for a passport under the current travel advisories in place by the department and public health officials. Applicants must show proof of "serious illnesses, injuries, or deaths in your immediate family" to be considered.

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In a statement to ABC News, the agency said that the sensitive nature of the passport application process makes them infeasible to process remotely. The department plans to begin reopening their offices in phases, with the first phase still not under way.

"Processing passport applications requires us to review sensitive documents, such as birth certificates and other personal records, and to physically print and mail passport books and cards back to applicants. This means that our staff are not able to process passport applications from home," the agency told ABC news.

The State Department did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill.

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