There was an almost immediate response today to my posting about how the Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee is apparently ignoring the problems at ISCD in favor of pursing a personal agenda. While I barely mentioned reauthorization, an anonymous reader took me to task for my criticism of Rep King (R,NY); not because of a disagreement with King’s lack of focus on CFATS, but because a hearing next week might allow King to show his true resolve.
The Politics of Reauthorization
There are a couple of things wrong with that comment. Ignore for the moment that I was focusing on the issue of the problems at ISCD not reauthorization. King’s focus on reauthorization (as well as Rep Upton’s (R,MI) as Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee) has not been on reauthorizing CFATS but on aggrandizing power to their respective committee. The HHSC bill (HR 901) would clearly provide CFATS oversight to HHSC, while HR 908 (the HECC bill) would continue to provide at least a portion of that oversight authority to the Energy and Commerce Committee.
The reason that neither bill has made it to the floor of the House is that the Republican leadership has not figured out which chairman it wants to piss off. If it never comes to the floor they won’t piss off either too much.
Secondly, the only hearing next week that could affect this discusson currently on the schedule for the House Homeland Security Committee is an appearance by Secretary Napolitano to answer questions about the FY 2013 budget (which apparently will be released, late as has become usual with the Obama Administration, on Monday). If CFATS comes up in that hearing at all it will be to have Ms Napolitano explain the de rigueur 1 year or 2 year extension of CFATS in the budget request. The answer will be short, sweet and essentially meaningless; explaining that the Administration expects Congress to enact a long term authorization bill, but just in case….
Besides, the Administration has made it clear in a number of hearings that they would prefer to see an expansion of the CFATS program to include water treatment facilities, some sort of IST provision and a number of slightly less contentious addendums that the current Republican Congress will never support.
The President would probably sign HR 901 (or HR 908, or S 473), but he would never actually come out in support of any them; it would anger too many already alienated members of his base. Besides it would be extremely impolitic for him to insert himself into the congressional committee power fight.
So Anonymous has me completely baffled as to why my criticism should wait until next week. Unless of course he/she knows about a hearing that is not currently on the public schedule; which is entirely possible.
It’s about Ignoring ISCD Problems
But, I wasn’t really upset about the reauthorization process in my earlier blog post (I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that until one side or the other controls both the House and has a Super Majority in the Senate, we will continue to see political posturing and routine approval of the CFATS program as part of the budget process. It could conceivably continue in this manner until someone blows up a chlorine tank somewhere; killing hundreds.
No what concerns me is that Chairman King has not made one public utterance about the problems at ISCD that I have seen. And that is not because he is reticent about sharing his opinions. He spends more time on conservative talk radio than Rush Limbaugh. It just appears that he has no interest in the CFATS program (beyond personal power over the program).
Now I understand that he is hampered by the fact that the Committee recently lost their CFATS expert (Dr. Diane Berry, whom I would love to hear from). And no one really expects a Congressman to understand the detailed workings of a program as small as the CFATS program. But for King to put getting to the bottom of the current ISCD fiasco behind getting a few soldiers a purple heart because they were targeted by some small minded coward is political grandstanding of the worst sort.
The security at the Olympic Games in London this summer is important, but it is the responsibility of the British government, not HHSC.
There are tens of thousands of people that live in the immediate danger zones of high-risk chemical facilities. The CFATS program is supposed to protect them against terrorist attacks on those facilities. Congress is supposed to ensure that their programs are implemented effectively and efficiently. The end stages of the CFATS implementation have been neither.
Representative King get your priorities in order.