The Senate also agreed unanimously to adopt
The votes leave
The remaining grant figure appears unlikely to satisfy state officials, many of whom have blasted Real ID as an "unfunded mandate." The Department of Homeland Security projects the cost of Real ID for states and taxpayers over the next 10 years at more than $23 billion. Seventeen states have already enacted statutes or resolutions registering their opposition to the new requirements, according to the
The Real ID Act, which
The law dictates that, starting on May 11, 2008, Americans will need a federally approved, "machine readable" ID card to travel on an airplane, open a bank account, collect Social Security payments or take advantage of nearly any government service. Before issuing the cards, which would have to adhere to Homeland Security standards, states would be required to verify electronically that identification documents, such as birth certificates, presented by their citizens are authentic. (States that agree in advance to abide by the rules would be given until 2013 to comply.)
In remarks on the Senate floor earlier this week, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), one of the failed amendment's sponsors, said he offered up the funding increase because "if the Congress requires the states to adopt REAL ID or something similar to REAL ID, then the Congress ought to pay for it."
But even he voiced doubts about the structure of the mandate and said he would be working with his colleagues to revisit the requirements. "I think insofar as REAL ID goes," he went on, according to a written transcript of his remarks, "we should either fund it or we should repeal it."
Critics--including the American Civil Liberties Union, the free-market Cato Institute and Citizens Against Government Waste--had likened Alexander's proposal to "sucker money," arguing it would do little to help states with the estimated multibillion-dollar implementation costs.
Thursday's vote indicated "Real ID is dead in the water, and it is clear that no amount of money can save it," ACLU Legislative Counsel Tim Sparapani said in a statement. "The only solution to Real ID is to scrap and replace it, and Congress has caught on."
It wasn't the first time that senators have used pivotal bills in recent months to rebel against the new requirements.
Civil liberties advocates and Senate opponents of Real ID
Politicians in both chambers have also proposed bills this year that would repeal the original Real ID Act and replace it with what civil liberties groups view as more flexible, privacy-protecting requirements.