The House this week only has two pro-forma sessions scheduled (Tuesday and Friday) so we only have the Senate to watch this week. Even that won’t be tough since there is only one hearing currently scheduled this week in the Senate that will be of interest to the chemical security community. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will be marking up S 473, the Continuing Chemical Facilities Antiterrorism Security Act of 2011.
On Wednesday, as one of five items on a Business Meeting Agenda, the Committee will consider the third CFATS extension bill to be approved by a Congressional Committee this session. As with HR 901 and HR 908 respectively in the House, I expect that this bill will pass with substantial bipartisan support. As they did last session, the Committee will agree to disagree on IST, whistleblower protections, etc and vote in support of Sen. Collin’s bill; with a number of Democrats vowing to raise those issues in the Senate floor debate (if and when) on the bill. There may be amendments offered in the mark-up, but probably nothing of substance.
This leaves two CFATS bills yet to be acted upon during this session; HR 916, Rep. Dent’s (R, PA) companion bill to S 473; and S 709, Sen. Lautenberg’s (D, NJ) bill that would substantially change the CFATS program. The first will not be considered in committee (either the Homeland Security or Energy and Commerce Committees to which it was assigned). Sen. Lautenberg’s bill will not be heard in Sen. Collins’ (er… Sen. Lieberman’s) Homeland Security Committee. So the only horses running in this race are HR 901, HR 908 and S 473. One of the two House bills will get scrubbed next month when the House leadership decides which will come to the floor for consideration.
The Senate will not take up Sen. Collins’ bill until the House passes its CFATS legislation. Then the language in S 473 will be substituted for the House language before the floor debate begins. Things will get complicated from there. I doubt that any CFATS bill will actually get to conference this year.