Members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation say a delay in processing passport applications — both for new passports and renewals — is impacting constituents, and they are doing what they can to help.
House and Senate offices have been getting numerous phone calls from Oklahomans frustrated and worried that long-overdue trips abroad could be in jeopardy.
“We have this large number of people that are trying to get passports after they didn’t travel last year,” said Sen. James Lankford, (R) OK. He says the backlog seems to be impacting everyone.
“Even individuals who are paying the extra money to get expedited passport processing,” Sen. Lankford said, “are having a hard time actually getting their passports back.”
On its website, the State Department says people should expect normal processing of new passport applications and renewals to take up to 18 weeks. Those who pay extra for expedited service, the agency says, should expect to wait 12 weeks. And that does not count the time it may take for mail delivery.
State Department Spokesperson Ned Price, at a recent news conference, said, “We are working as expeditiously as we possibly can knowing that the traveling public has a legitimate interest in travel.”
To be sure, a surge in applications and slow mail service are two factors in the delays Americans are experiencing, but Sen. Lankford says the primary factor is the slow pace at which the State Department is returning to normal operations and bringing workers back to the office.
“Almost every company in America is back at work now except for several federal agencies,” said Sen. Lankford, (R-OK). “We just want the federal agencies to follow the federal guidance to be able to turn passports around for individuals that need them.”
Lankford is hardly the only member of Congress speaking out about the problem. Republicans and Democrats are complaining and encouraging leadership at the State Department to take action.
“They are shorthanded,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin, (R) OK-2, “just like every business out there right now is.”
Congressman Markwayne Mullin says his office is working individually with constituents to get their cases resolved and new passports in their hands.
“And if all their paperwork is correct,” said Rep. Mullin, “we’ve been able to help everybody, we’ve been able to make it happen.”