Sunday, February 22, 2015

Committee Hearings – Week of 2-22-15

The House and Senate will both be back in town this week after spending some time in their districts. There will be a number of budget hearings, but only one of specific interest to readers of this blog; the Coast Guard budget. Cybersecurity will be an additional topic this week as will DHS performance and domestic terrorism.

Coast Guard Budget

The House Transportation Committee’s Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation will be holding a hearing on Wednesday to look at the President’s budget proposal for Coast Guard spending in FY 2016. This will almost certainly be a ‘high-level’ review with little probability of chemical safety or security being mentioned, much less discussed in any detail.

Cybersecurity Information Sharing

On Wednesday the House Homeland Security Committee will be holding a hearing on “Examining the President’s Cybersecurity Information Sharing Proposal." Administration witness from DHS will be heard and there will be a report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Watch the questioning at this hearing to see how close the two sides are achieving a consensus on the information sharing issue. Pay careful attention to see if Congress may take a wait and see response to the President’s actions as a way to avoid action on legislation this year.

DHS Oversight

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency will be holding a hearing on Thursday looking at “Assessing DHS’s Performance: Watchdog Recommendations to Improve Homeland Security.” No witness list has been published, but I suspect that it will be academics and think tanks.

There is a slight chance that the pending changes to the CFATS program will be mentioned, but, if it is, there won’t be many details discussed.

Domestic Terror Threat

Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations of the House Judiciary Committee will be holding a hearing on Thursday looking at “ISIL in America: Domestic Terror and Radicalization.” There is no witness list currently available.

There might be a passing mention of cybersecurity, but almost certainly nothing about chemical security.

On The Floor

The 800 lb gorilla this week is the Friday deadline to pass the FY 2015 spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The House passed HR 240 last month, but the Senate has not been able to overcome Democratic opposition to the immigration riders to actually be able to start debate on the measure. At least one more attempt will be made to get cloture on this bill this week.

There is an interesting indication that the House expects to see a revised version of HR 240 come back to the House for a vote this week. The Majority Leader’s web page mentions ‘possible consideration of HR 240’ later in the week. If the Senate can’t bring the bill to the floor in that body this week, there may be a short term continuing resolution coming out of the House.

There is always the possibility, however, that both sides will expect the other side to get the blame for a shutdown and thus let the whole matter slide past Friday. Most of DHS will continue working for ‘national security’ reasons, though it will be ‘without pay’ (back-pay for those that had to work would probably be included in the final bill that does eventually get worked out). The CFATS program would not, however, be covered under that provision.  Chemical security inspectors would not get paid, but they could spend the time with their families.

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