Senate Panel to Examine Passport Delays

A Senate committee Tuesday will look into the passport processing delays that have frustrated many summer travelers, the Miami Herald reports. The backlog in processing--prompted by new rules that required U.S. citizens to have passports to fly to and from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda--has caused delays of up to three months. The rules were relaxed last week, but the delays continue. State Department officials knew that requests were exceeding projections by 250,000 last November and by 600,000 in January--the same month that a controversial travel rule took effect. More than half of the Senate called on Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice yesterday to end the backlog and to ensure that it does not return after a temporary waiver, granted last week, expires on September 30. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., has said that the State Department should consider refunding a fee to applicants who paid an extra $60, on top of the regular $97 passport fee, for expedited processing.