Tuesday, June 21, 2011

HR 901 Markup – Thompson Substitute Amendment

Today the House Homeland Security web site for tomorrow’s HR 901 markup hearing added a substitute amendment that the Committee will consider during their review of HR 901. This substitute will be offered by Rep. Thompson (D, MS) as an alternative to the amendment offered by Rep. Lungren (R, CA) that I discussed in my earlier blog.

This 95 page substitute is essentially Title I of HR 2868 as passed by the House during the 111th Congress. It is the ‘wish list’ for a comprehensive chemical security bill as viewed by environmental and labor activists. As I mentioned in the earlier blog, the support of some portion of these political elements will be required to pass chemical facility security legislation in the Senate.

Unfortunately, this proposal, as written, has no chance of being passed in the House or the Senate. The supporters of these proposals were stronger in the Senate in the last session and were unable to bring the House passed bill to the floor for debate, much less a vote. The Republican vote against this proposal in the Committee markup session will undoubtedly be unanimous and there is a good possibility that there well be some Democrats that vote against it as well.

The disturbing thing to me is that I know that Ranking Member Thompson is fully capable of counting the votes against this proposal. He knows that it has no chance of passing. With this in mind I can only conclude that one of two things has happened, either Thompson has decided that he wants no chemical security legislation to pass this session or he has decided that Chairman King is incapable of seeing that the current version of HR 901 (and HR 908) has no chance of being considered by the Senate, much less passing in that body.

In either case, the all-or-nothing stance that seems to be indicated by this alternative makes one conclude that another session of Congress is going to pass without any effective attempt to pass a real chemical security bill. Well, the chemical companies can continue to live with the uncertainty of the current year-to-year authorization process and the country can continue to hope that no terrorist organization recognizes and exploits the shortcomings of the current chemical security program.

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