Senate Homeland Security Authorization Markup Postponed

March 2, 2018

On February 28. the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs formally took up the House-passed Department of Homeland Security Reauthorization Act (H.R. 2825), but because of the memorial service for Rev. Billy Graham over in the Capitol, immediately postponed consideration of the bill for a week so members could have time to work through the dozens of amendments that had been filed to the bill. The markup will resume March 7 at 10 a.m.

At the start of the truncated meeting, chairman Ron Johnson (R-WI) announced:

…the Ranking Member and I have filed a substitute amendment to the House bill for the Committee to consider that would codify and authorize key roles and responsibilities for the Department’s headquarters offices, strengthen the Department’s approach to managing its acquisition programs, and address recommendations from watchdogs like the Government Accountability Office and the Inspector General to improve the Department’s management and performance.

We have also proposed including a key reorganization for DHS: transforming the National Protection and Programs Directorate into the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. This Committee has, through previous bipartisan legislation, provided DHS with the authorities it needs to execute its cybersecurity responsibilities. Establishing an agency within DHS to focus on cyber and infrastructure security will help DHS achieve its missions.

But the text of that amendment was not made available (nor were the dozens of other amendments that Johnson and ranking member Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said had been filed). And it is far from clear how the Senate will address the vast swaths of the House-passed bill that are in the jurisdiction of other committees.

H.R. 2825, as passed by the House (bill text here), has six divisions:

  • Division A – DHS generally, including TSA
  • Division B – Immigration and Customs Enforcement
  • Division C – Citizenship and Immigration
  • Division D – Secret Service
  • Division E – Coast Guard
  • Division F – FEMA

The reason Congressional draftsmen divide a bill into divisions is usually to make it easier to assign jurisdiction over those divisions to different sets of committees – especially where Senate and House jurisdictional structures differ. This is a particular problem for Homeland. In the House, the Homeland Security committee has jurisdiction over DHS generally and TSA, but the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee retained jurisdiction over the Coast Guard and most FEMA activities. But in the Senate, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs does not have TSA – that stayed with the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, along with the Coast Guard.

Immigration and naturalization law still lies with the Judiciary Committees, Customs is still with the tax committees, et cetera, et cetera.

In the House, Homeland chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX) was able to negotiate a memorandum of understanding early last year between the chairmen of no less than eight House committees (printed starting on page H6117 of the Record here) where they all agreed to play nicely together and let Homeland take the lead on developing a comprehensive DHS authorization bill:

5. The Committee on Homeland Security and the committees with jurisdiction over components of the Department shall jointly develop a process for the vetting and pre- clearing of base text and amendments offered at subcommittee and full committee markups of a DHS authorization bill in the Committee on Homeland Security that fall within the jurisdiction of a committee other than or in addition to the Committee on Homeland Security.

6. The committees will expedite consideration of any comprehensive authorization bill for the Department, including timely resolution of any matters subject to a sequential or additional referral.

7. To the extent that there are policy dif- ferences between the committees regarding a provision of the comprehensive authorization bill for the Department, the committees will make best efforts to resolve any such dispute.

The process worked – the Homeland panel developed a reauthorization bill that included components from many committees, and it managed to pass the House last July by a wide vote margin of 386 to 41.

Divisions E and F of the bill incorporated bills approved by the T&I Committee – Division E was the Coast Guard authorization bill (H.R. 2518) and Division F was the FEMA reauthorization bill (H.R. 2548). This is the reason why those bills, which were reported from T&I and which have been on the House calendar since last summer, have never moved to the floor – if they move separately, that will undercut McCaul in his attempts to get the Senate to consider the whole entire DHS bill.

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