Friday, March 19, 2010

Reader Comment 03-16-10 More HR 2868

An Anonymous reader posted a comment to my earlier blog on the earlier discussion on the status of HR 2868. Anonymous wrote: “Can't see why Sen. Lieberman would introduce anything now, being that 2 Democrats have already endorsed the Collins bill. He would not have the votes to get it out of committee.” Reality It sure would be nice if politics were that simple. First we must realize that there is no current open opposition for making the current CFATS regulations permanent. There is some significant opposition (firmly led by Sen. Collins) to including IST mandate language in the authorizing legislation. There is also significant support for such a mandate (just as firmly led in the past by Sen. Lieberman). Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Collins are well known for their ability and desire to work out reasonable compromises on a variety of Homeland Security issues. And both Senators want to see permanent chemical security authorization passed. Finally, we have to admit that, while S 2996 does have ‘bipartisan’ support in being co-sponsored by two Democrats, it has virtually no chance of being passed into law. Democrats in the House have firmly established that they will not accept permanent legislation for CFATS without a number of pro-labor provisions, including some sort of IST provision. I’m not even sure that there are enough votes in the Senate to pass S 2996. Actually, this calculus may explain why DHS began work on their own draft for CFATS legislation. The Administration supports having IST language in any legislation making CFATS permanent. If DHS can work out some compromise language that will be acceptable to the House Democrats and Sen. Lieberman while not overly offending industry and Sen. Collins, then we might have a chance of getting enough votes in both the Senate and the House for a bill that permanently authorizes CFATS. Potential for Compromise Now I do think that a reasonable IST compromise can be written that would garner grudging support of significant portions of the chemical industry. Such support would be key to gaining support of moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats. Just look at the reduced industry opposition to the water IST provisions in HR 2868. Next week’s CCPS meeting will be essential in establishing the theoretical basis for such support. The important consideration this year will be the issue of timing. The closer we get to the November elections, the harder it will be to get the necessary votes. Legislators are more likely to oppose making votes on controversial legislation the closer they are to the voters’ evaluations. IST supporters are less likely to support compromise wording because of the large groundswell of support for IST from labor and environmental groups (just search for ‘chemical security’ on Twitter to see how hard Greenpeace is working this issue). IST opponents are less like to risk charges of killing jobs.

The real problem is that the Obama Administration has just not demonstrated that they are capable of internally approving politically controversial proposals in a timely manner, particularly in the homeland security arena. If the White House can speed their internal approval process and get the DHS draft legislation to the Senate in a timely manner (and that draft adequately addresses legitimate industry IST concerns, of course) then CFATS can pass before the summer recess.

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