House Republicans approve plan for select homeland panel

The House Republican Conference endorsed a leadership plan Monday to establish a special select committee to consolidate congressional oversight over the new Homeland Security Department.

House Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio said the proposal encountered no resistance and generated little discussion, even by chairmen of existing committees that could lose turf to a new panel.

Pryce said Republicans do not want to complicate the oversight burden for the new Homeland Security secretary by making the department report to dozens of House panels.

As a select committee, House Speaker Dennis Hastert would have the authority to appoint the chairman and members of the new panel. It would likely consist of the chairmen and ranking members of committees that already claim jurisdiction over homeland security.

According to leadership aides, the committee would have the authority to initiate legislation and hold hearings, but would also defer oversight to existing panels that have expertise in narrow areas.

Republican leaders envision the select committee becoming a permanent standing committee in the 109th Congress.

Two GOP lawmakers also told CongressDaily that the Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee would pick up much of the responsibility for determining homeland security spending.

However, a spokesman for Appropriations Chairman C.W. (Bill) Young, R-Fla., said he has not decided how to divide authority over homeland security on the panel.

"We have made no decision whatsoever," the spokesman said. "We're just trying to get done with [fiscal] 03."

The creation of a new select committee is likely to ignite competition for the chairmanship of the panel. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., floated a proposal last year to create such a panel and could seek to lead it.

Republican Policy Committee Chairman Christopher Cox of California has told GOP leaders he is not interested in the select committee and wants either to remain chairman of the Republican Policy Committee or head the Government Reform Committee.

That could leave Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., or Christopher Shays, R-Conn., also vying to head Government Reform.

Another possible chairman is Rep. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who served last year on the ad hoc panel that drafted legislation for the department. A Portman spokesman said Monday Portman would be interested in the Policy Committee if Cox were to leave that leadership post.

Republican rank and file signed off on a rules amendment offered by Majority Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo. It would abolish eight-year term limits for House speaker.

The GOP Conference approved a requirement that the Joint Tax Committee issue "dynamic scoring" of legislation reported out of the House Ways and Means Committee.

And Republicans reinstated the so-called Gephardt rule, originally written by outgoing Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., allowing the House to raise the debt limit in the budget resolution without a separate vote.

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