Friday, February 25, 2011

Congressional Hearings – Week of February 28th

Next week Congress will be dominated by budget matters. With the March 4th deadline for approval of FY 2011 appropriations fast approaching, there will be some sort of action or deliberate inaction on that front. And the President’s FY 2012 budget will get continued attention. The only hearings currently scheduled that will be of interest to the chemical security community will be about the FY 2012 budget.

DHS Department Budget Request

Secretary Napolitano will be making two appearances on Capitol Hill this week to explain the President’s DHS budget request for FY 2012. She will appear before the Homeland Security Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday afternoon. On Thursday morning she will make her appearance before the House Homeland Security Community that was originally scheduled for the 17th.

Her prepared testimony will be essentially the same as she presented to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on the 17th. The questions will likely be a little different, reflecting the parochial interests of the various committee members.

Typically we would not expect to see much in the way of questions about CFATS; it’s just too small a program from a budget perspective. That may change this week for two reasons. First, there is a remote chance that Chairman King might take the opportunity to ask a question or two about delays in the CFATS implementation as they might indicate a lack of resources for internal review of SSP submissions.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Wednesday arrest of 20-year-old Saudi Khalid Ali-M Aldawsari in Texas on charges related to improvised explosives (or WMD as it is known to the FBI) weren’t the subject of at least a few questions. There might be specific questions about his ability to buy the chemicals and equipment necessary to make an IED (something of no surprise to anyone in the chemical community). Secretary Napolitano would certainly be expected to include in her response that it was a chemical company’s warning that led to his arrest.

Coast Guard Budget Request

While his name does not yet appear on the House Transportation Committee web site for the Tuesday morning hearing before the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, the Commandant of the Coast Guard will certainly be one of the three government witnesses that will testify on maritime related budget requests. Again MTSA will not likely appear in his written testimony because of its relatively small budget impact. Questions might be asked about the TWIC Reader implementation process.

FY 2011 Continuing Resolution

There is not currently any hearings scheduled on HR 1 in the Senate. There have been news reports that the Senate Appropriations Committee is crafting an alternative to the House bill. It is unlikely that there would be hearings on that alternative; it would most likely show up on the Senate floor as an amendment in the form of a substitute. Until that alternative actually makes an appearance it is difficult to forecast its potential for passing in the Senate.

With the deadline fast approaching and almost everybody expecting some sort of a fight between the Senate and the House on HR 1 there has been much talk of a potential government shut down. Yesterday we started to see news reports that the Republicans in the House were working on a shorter term version of HR 1 to be offered as deadline bridge to allow that fight to be fully played out. Such a bill would certainly call for a Rules Committee hearing, but one is not yet scheduled. Such a bill and hearing would have to be announced early in the week to conform to the new House Rules.

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