Senate chairmen take aim at Lieberman on homeland bill

In another sign of intramural tensions over homeland security legislation, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., is taking aim at a key section of the Senate bill that would give the new Homeland Security Department broad powers to gather intelligence, sources told CongressDaily Monday.

Levin favors establishing a new directorate for intelligence within the new department, according to an aide, but would make the directorate the focal point for the "receipt"-rather than the "analysis"-of information.

The change is intended to allow the current intelligence-gathering structure to stay essentially in place, rather than creating new analysis functions that Levin feels could be duplicative within the department.

Levin, a member of the Governmental Affairs Committee, will propose the change Wednesday during the panel's markup of the legislation. The new intelligence-gathering powers are a central element of the bill proposed by Governmental Affairs Chairman Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., who is leading the Senate's effort to approve the department.

Levin joins a handful of other influential Senate Democratic committee chairmen who-like House Republican committee chairmen before them-are voicing opposition to parts of the homeland bill under the purview of their committees.

The concerns indicate that Lieberman's decision to keep his own counsel about some of the legislative language during a hasty drafting period could leave his bill vulnerable to changes in committee and on the floor.

House Republican leaders have confronted identical friction from turf-conscious committee leaders during the two weeks they have worked on the bill.

To keep the bill free of undue influence from those committee leaders, House leaders established an ad hoc Homeland Security Committee to write the legislation.

Last week, the Homeland Security Committee approved legislation that attempts to split the difference between the Bush administration's plan and the recommendations of a dozen committee chairmen.

The House Rules Committee will decide Wednesday whether a handful of affected committee chairman will get the opportunity to try to amend the bill Thursday, when it comes to the House floor.

The most troubling amendment for House leaders could come from Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, who hopes to employ his 75-member panel to prevent the Coast Guard from being moved to the new department.

On the other side of the Capitol, Democratic committee chairmen are beginning to raise similar issues as Wednesday's Governmental Affairs panel vote nears.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., for example, is working with Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, and others on a letter to the administration about ways to make the new agency more open and accountable to the public.

Leahy spoke at hearings about the need to make the agency subject to Freedom of Information Act requests.

According to his spokesman, Leahy "has warned the administration not to use the new department as cover, as an excuse for blanket exceptions from things such as FOIA."

While Leahy's office would not comment on the letter, his spokesman acknowledged discussions were ongoing with other senators about such issues.

Leahy also has joined Sen. Christopher (Kit) Bond, R-Mo., to urge changes to the bill's provisions on uses of the National Guard.

Meanwhile, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Jeffords, I-Vt., has requested that the Federal Emergency Management Agency remain outside the new department.

Republicans have raised concerns, as well. Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine hope to add language to the legislation to ensure that the Coast Guard would continue focusing on traditional non-security functions, such as search-and-rescue operations.

Stevens, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee, also is working with Appropriations Chairman Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., to remove language from the White House proposal to give the director of the new department broad flexibility in spending congressionally appropriated funds.

In a sign that Lieberman understands the power of fellow committee chairmen, he left the spending provision out of his bill, choosing instead to allow Byrd and Stevens to write that section.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.