Monday, December 28, 2009

Adjourned Sine Die

Congress finally completed their work on December 24th and adjourned for the remainder of the year. Unfortunately the only work they completed on the chemical security front was to include a one year extension of the authorization for the CFATS regulations in the DHS budget bill. The House did pass two authorization bills for DHS components (TSA and the Coast Guard) and HR 2868, the Chemical and Water Security Act of 2009. With Congress adjourned and members back in their districts, many of my readers will be taking a vacation for the next two weeks. I’ll be spending more time on some other projects that I have been working on. But this blog won’t be adjourned. There could still be significant news in chemical security to look at, so I’ll still be watching for that. CFATS Legislation The Senate Homeland Security Committee staff will continue working on HR 2868 in the coming weeks. The staffs of Sen. Collins and Sen. Lautenberg are supposed to be working on preparing CFATS re-authorization of their own to counter their very divergent views of the problems with the House bill. The issue that will continue to be the most contentious in this area will be the Inherently Safer Technology (IST) requirements. Last year, before the HR 2868 language became available, I wrote a series of blogs about the IST issue. This week, I will be re-posting those blogs. I think that they can contribute to the work that continues to be done in the (at least) three Senate staffs currently working on this issue. Politics of Re-Elections One last political reminder to readers of this blog; if you thought politics was contentious this year, you haven’t seen anything yet. The first session of the 111th Congress was marked by party division. The second session of any Congress is always more affected by pre-election posturing by both parties; this one will certainly follow that model. The party-line division will, if anything, get worse in the lead up to October. While major issues drew a lot of ‘conflict press’ in the first session, there were a number of issues where there was bipartisan support for less controversial legislation. The number of such bipartisan bills will probably be reduced during the second session and will draw even less press coverage. What were minor disagreements last session will become ‘stands on principal’ this session as part of the Congressional re-election process. Fortunately for the chemical security community, this will be less evident in the Senate because less than 1/3rd of the Senate is up for re-election this year. That means that most Senators will probably not be looking at their short-term re-election benefit when deciding how to vote on HR 2868. Hopefully, that will allow for some reasonable compromises on IST and other issues.

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