Sunday, January 12, 2014

Congressional Hearings – Week of 1-12-14

Well Congress will be back to work with a vengeance this week. There are a number of interesting hearings coming, two spending bills and maybe the introduction of a stand alone CFATS authorization in the House. The hearings include cybersecurity, intelligence, transportation and another DHS nomination.


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is starting the surface transportation reauthorization process off with a full committee hearing on Tuesday. Looking at the witness list it doesn’t look like there will be any specific look at chemical transportation issues, but the topic of crude train hazards could rear its ugly head. That discussion would focus on concerns of affected parties not on any solutions.

The hearing web page does have a link to a nice summary document of the reauthorization coverage; again, no specific mention of chemical transportation issues.

DHS Nominations

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will hold a business meeting on Tuesday. According to the agenda they will be discussing the nominations of Susanne Spaulding to be Under Secretary of DHS for NPPD and John Roth for DHS IG. Ms Spaulding is holding the acting job of Under Secretary while Rand Beer was acting Secretary. Now that he has moved to the White House, it looks like she will get the job full time.

Terrorism Intelligence

Under the heading of you can’t protect against what you don’t understand there will be an interesting open intelligence hearing held by the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. Since this is an open hearing don’t expect much in the way of intel details especially since the witnesses; two former congresscritters of note and a retired Army general, are more politically oriented than intelligence analysts.

Those witnesses are:

• Honorable Joe Lieberman, former Connecticut Senator
• Honorable Jane Harman, former California Congresswoman; Director, Wilson Center
• General (Ret.) Jack Keane, former Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Army


The Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies (whew these subcommittee names are getting long) Subcommittee of the House Homeland Security Committee will hold a mark-up hearing on Wednesday looking at HR 3696, the National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act of 2013.

As I noted in an earlier post, this is a fairly comprehensive critical infrastructure cybersecurity bill with broad bipartisan support. Cybersecurity bills have had a tough road to travel with nothing of significance getting to the White House. This bill may have a chance to complete the trip if it gets to the Senate floor by July 4th. This is the first step on that journey; there won’t be any delay’s on Wednesday.

Spending Bills

As I mentioned in yesterday’s bill introduction post HJ Res 106 is a three-day continuing resolution. It will set the stage for the consideration of a bill that isn’t quite yet finished later this week. The current deadline is January 15th, but HJ Res 106 will extend that to Saturday. The House leadership is taking quite a chance on this short term resolution as it will be considered under suspension of the rules (vote scheduled for Tuesday) which requires a 2/3 vote margin to pass. The Democratic leadership is on-board for the short term extension so it should pass as long as no one upsets the fiscal conservative Republicans too much in the meantime.

Since we haven’t seen the final bill being crafted by the two Appropriations Committees (it will probably be introduced on Monday or Tuesday), it is hard to judge how smooth that consideration process will be. Right now there doesn’t appear to be any discussion/threats of another federal funding fiasco so maybe things will work out for a final vote in the Senate on Saturday.

CFATS Extension

Also mentioned yesterday is the possiblility of CFATS extension bill introduction from Rep. McCaul (R,TX), probably on Thursday. It appears that the House Homeland Security staff has touched all of the appropriate bases on the bill, but no one seems interested in talking about what they have been told. McCaul has been doing a good job lately with bipartisan bills so this one may have a chance of passage.

Unfortunately, the big impediment to passage in the House is not the votes, but rather the committee conflict with the Energy and Commerce Committee (and to a lesser extent the Appropriations Committee) over who will be responsible for overseeing the program. One would expect a bill from the Homeland Security Committee Chair to cut out the other two committees and that might stop the bill from ever getting to the floor.

It will be interesting to see how McCaul tries to finesse that problem.

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