Monday, November 9, 2009

Reader Comment 11-08-09 Recommit

Anonymous wrote in yesterday morning to take me to task for my description of Mr. Dent’s (R, PA) motion to recommit in my blog about the final day of the debate on HR 2868 in the House. Anonymous wrote, in part:
“That was not the motion to recommit. The motion to recommit barred DHS from requiring IST implementation unless it found that doing so would cause no net NATIONAL reduction in jobs, and would apply anytime unemployment was over 4%. In the past 478 months, unemployment has been under 4% SIX times, the last time being just before George W Bush took office.”
Dent’s Similar Amendment I must admit that it was rather late when I finished up my posting and I rushed through my description of the Dent motion to get the blog posted. Further I made the mistake of applying less than adequate analysis to words of a politician in a debate. Here is what Dent said
“When I offered a similar amendment [emphasis added] at the full committee, my friend, Ms. JACKSONLEE, and my friend, Mr. CUELLAR, both spoke in strong support stating, [‘]We want to make sure that it does not adversely affect the workforce, which is something we all support.[’] That provision passed unanimously. That’s why I was angered when it was stripped out by the Rules Committee.” (CR, Nov 6, pg H12533)
‘Similar’ is a slippery word, particularly when used in a political debate. The amendment that Mr. Dent was referencing modified §2111(b)(1)(D) to read: “(D) would not significantly or demonstrably reduce the operations of the covered chemical facility or result in a reduction of the workforce of the covered chemical facility”. The amendment was not ‘stripped out by the Rules Committee’; this implies that targeted action was taken against the amendment. This amendment was found in the Homeland Security Committee version of the bill. As I reported earlier the version of the bill reported out by the Rules Committee used the Energy and Commerce Committee version of the bill for the §2111 language. Chairmen Thompson and Waxman did not include the Dent language in modifications subsequently made to that section. The Actual Motion to Recommit The Dent amendment included in the motion to recommit actually read:
“(iv) would not significantly or demonstrably reduce the operations of the covered chemical facility or result in any net reduction in private sector employment when national unemployment is above 4 percent.”
This language appears to be very restrictive. As Anonymous pointed out there has not been less than 4% unemployment since the beginning of the previous administration. Add to that the language about resulting in “any net reduction in private sector employment” and you put the Secretary in a position of determining if a particular IST implementation would result in a large enough job reduction to result in a net reduction. Anonymous feels that this “language would have gutted the IST provision”. I think that that may be a bit of political hyperbole. A ‘pro-business’ Secretary could arguably decide, as a matter of personal discretion, that any IST implementation would result in a net reduction to avoid imposing any IST implementation. An ‘environmentalist’ Secretary could just as arguably decide that there was no number of layoffs at a particular facility that would have a negative affect on the net level of private sector employment to justify requiring a wide swath of IST implementations. Leaving such a wide level of discretion, based on a vague standard that has nothing to do with the underlying regulation, makes for very poor law. After this closer examination I have to admit that I agree with Chairman Thompson’s evaluation of this amendment that he voiced in the floor debate; I am opposed to this provision in “its present form”. If his amendment had been a straight duplication of the one added in the Homeland Security Committee markup, I think that Dent’s motion to recommit would have been readily accepted by the Democratic Leadership, if for no other reason that it would have shown that the debate was being handled in a ‘bipartisan’ manner. Thanks to Anonymous for making me look at this matter in more detail.

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