Monday, March 12, 2012

HR 901 – A lack-of-power play

The status of HR 901, Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Security Authorization Act of 2011, was once again updated on Friday while the House met in a pro forma session. The House Energy and Commerce Committee was granted another extension of time to review the legislation; this time until June 8th, 2012. This is the sixth such extension granted since the bill was co-referred to the Committee in March of last year.

Any reasonably intelligent observer of congressional committee politics knows that the Energy and Commerce Committee will not report this bill. It would give explicit jurisdiction for oversight of the  CFATS program to the House Homeland Security Committee. The current situation gives co-oversight responsibility for that program to the Energy and Commerce Committee. This is part of the legacy of creation of the Department of Homeland Security and the inability of congressional leadership, particularly in the House, to rationalize oversight of that department.

The indecisiveness of the House Republican leadership (not that the Democratic leadership in the previous Congress was any more decisive in this regards) has led us to the point where two house bills, HR 901 and HR 908, attempting to provide long-term extension of the CFATS program, both duly reported, have not, and probably will not, come to a vote on the House floor.

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