Friday, July 13, 2007

9/11 Bill Slowed Down by Jurisdictional Fight

This is like beating a drum. Every day there's a new story about the inability of Congress to move forward on legislative priorities -- half the time due to opposition from the GOP, but the other half due to poor management or Democratic infighting. Today it's the recommendations of the 9/11 commission:

Senior House Democrats and aides are expressing frustration with the prolonged negotiations over legislation that would implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

The legislation, passed by the House and Senate in January, likely will go to a conference committee next week to reconcile differences between the two bills, according to two Democratic lawmakers. The drawn-out pre-conference has resulted from a bevy of jurisdictional disputes between House and Senate committee chairmen.

And while we're at it, let's recall that the legislation doesn't even meet the promise of Democrats to implement all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission. It fails to reform the committee oversight system in Congress, leaving DHS and other agencies answering to many masters, rather than leaving direction and accountability in the hands of a few leaders. It is a recipe for failure.

The 9/11 Commission was emphatic on the need for reorganization:

Recommendation: Congressional oversight for intelligence-and counterterrorism-is now dysfunctional. Congress should address this problem. We have considered various alternatives: A joint committee on the old model of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy is one. A single committee in each house of Congress, combining authorizing and appropriating authorities, is another...

The leaders of the Department of Homeland Security now appear before 88 committees and subcommittees of Congress. One expert witness (not a member of the administration) told us that this is perhaps the single largest obstacle impeding the department's successful development. The one attempt to consolidate such committee authority, the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, may be eliminated. The Senate does not have even this.

Congress needs to establish for the Department of Homeland Security the kind of clear authority and responsibility that exist to enable the Justice Department to deal with crime and the Defense Department to deal with threats to national security. Through not more than one authorizing committee and one appropriating subcommittee in each house, Congress should be able to ask the secretary of homeland security whether he or she has the resources to provide reasonable security against major terrorist acts within the United States and to hold the secretary accountable for the department's performance.

Recommendation: Congress should create a single, principal point of oversight and review for homeland security. Congressional leaders are best able to judge what committee should have jurisdiction over this department and its duties. But we believe that Congress does have the obligation to choose one in the House and one in the Senate, and that this committee should be a permanent standing committee with a nonpartisan staff.

None of this is included in the bill that the Democrats falsely promise will implement all the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Guess they're keeping all the promises they meant to keep, though.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The 9/11 attackers are in the White House, at the Pentagon, Langley. WHAT!? 9/11/2001, Pentagon. Where is the Boeing 757-sized hole? In fact, where is the Boeing 757? -