Monday, November 1, 2010

Election Tomorrow

I haven’t talked much about the mid-term elections to this point because I have not expected them to have much effect on chemical security matters. I don’t know of a single election where this is determinant issue, or even an issue that is even discussed much on the campaign trail. Even Greenpeace seems to have backed off on their chemical security campaign. None of the major players in Congress with any kind of focus on chemical security issues appears to be in any danger of not being re-elected.

So what will happen when the votes are counted tomorrow (or the next day). Well, I hate to waffle, but I’m not sure anyone has a good prediction at this point of what the final numbers will be in Congress. As we would expect for the first mid-term elections for a new Administration, the party in power is expected to loose seats, the question is how many. Again, as with any mid-term elections it depends in large part in which party does a better job in getting their supporters to the polls. So here are the three scenarios that have a reasonable chance of coming to pass:

Democrats Maintain ‘Control’: Republicans make gains in both the House and the Senate, but Democrats retain a majority in both. The Republicans would have an easier time for blocking legislation in the Senate; more of their votes would be necessary for closing off debate on controversial subjects. In the House the power of the Blue Dog Democrats would increase as their votes would be absolutely necessary to pass Administration measures. In short, a lot more yelling and screaming and less controversial legislation getting to the President for signature.

Democrats Maintain ‘Control’ of Senate: Republicans gain a majority of the House, but don’t make enough gains in the Senate to gain the majority. Moderate Republicans will have some measure of power to moderate the House agenda, but the main moderating influence will be the inability to get a radical conservative legislation considered in the Senate.

Republicans Gain ‘Control: Republicans gain a majority in both the Senate and the House but this won’t give them real control. There won’t be enough votes to force a cloture vote in the Senate. The gains in the House will not be enough to over-ride a Presidential veto which Obama can be expected to wield to stop major changes to his agenda.
What this means for chemical security issues is that there will not be any major changes to CFATS. We will probably continue to see 1 to 2 year extensions of the current §550 authorization. We are likely to see, however, some sort of cyber security legislation that will have additional affects on chemical security requirements; this will be separate from CFATS and will be administered by another office in DHS.

One caveat to those predictions; if there is an actual attack on a chemical facility (successful or otherwise), there is no telling what kind of over-reaction we will get from any Congress. For example, just watch the Congressional reaction during the upcoming lame-duck session to the attempted attacks last week via explosives in aircraft. If any of these devices spent any time on commercial airliners you can expect to see a great hew and cry because TSA has not instituted 100% screening of packages on inbound commercial airlines. There will almost certainly be new legislation mandating such screening.

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