Tuesday, August 12, 2008

DHS Appropriations Bill and CFATA

There was an interesting piece on GovExec.com yesterday about the agenda for Congress in September. According to the article, the Homeland Security Appropriations Bill, S- 3181, is likely to reach the floor of the Senate before the expected adjournment on October 1st. There is no mention of the House Homeland Security Appropriations bill that still has not been reported out of committee.


Continuing Resolution


Apparently there is not going to be an omnibus spending bill this year. The article says that one of Majority Leader Reid’s priorities this October will be to pass a continuing resolution to fund government operations until the new Congress takes office in January. If a DHS appropriations bill is not passed, DHS spending would be included in the continuing resolution.


By definition a continuing resolution should contain no new spending or legislation (earmarks may be another story), so it is very unlikely that the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2008 (CFATA) or an extension of the CFATS regulations (HR 5533) would be attached to such a resolution. This means that any CFATS extension or expansion would almost certainly have to ride on a DHS spending bill.


No CFATA on S-3181


Since there is no Senate version of CFATA that has been introduced, much less made it through committee, there is no way that CFATA type provisions are going to make it into S-3181 before the floor vote. The provisions are too complex and controversial for enough Senators to accept without hearings.


Unless HR 5577 is brought to a floor vote (and approved) prior to S-3181 making its way to the House, it is unlikely that Chairman Thompson will be able to convince the House leadership, much lessa majority of representatives, that it would bea good idea to tack CFATA onto S-3181 as an amendment. This is especially true since Speaker Pelosi has so effectively blocked consideration of the bill in the first place.


CFATS Extension Possible on S-3181


A one year extension of the current Section 550 authorization for CFATS is a possible amendment that might get tacked on to S-3181 on the floor of the Senate or in the House if that bill makes it there for consideration before October 1st. The Administration would almost certainly accept such an extension. HR 5577 proponents could accept a limited extension as it would keep chemical facilities under some regulation pending more detailed action in the next Congress.


No Action on Chemical Facility Security Most Likely


Given Speaker Pelosi’s history of inaction on chemical facility security legislation and general inability to keep her committee chairmen in line, I do not expect any action on the DHS Appropriations before October 1st. This would mean that DHS would get lumped into a continuing resolution.


Effectively, that would close off the possibility of any action on a CFATS extension or expansion for this Congress. This would mean that in addition to dealing with an administration transition (with all of those appointment hearings), and two budgets (2009 and 2010), the new Congress will have to deal with CFATS.


Given the speed with which Congress normally works on complex legislation a new, extensively-revised version of CFATA will be in conference just about the time that CFATS expires. It will be interesting to see comes out of that.

No comments:

/* Use this with templates/template-twocol.html */