Dem says GOP's port bill tactics hurt bipartisan relations

The top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee says bipartisan relations on his panel have been damaged from the experience of pushing through a port security bill during last month's rush to recess for the fall elections.

House Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told CongressDaily "there's no question" that the process of finishing the bill strained bipartisan relationships on the committee, mainly because Democrats were not allowed to offer amendments during final conference negotiations.

Thompson's comments come about two weeks before the elections, in which Democrats across the country are fighting high-stakes battles with Republicans to win control of the House, with both sides using the issue of homeland security in their campaigns.

Thompson faulted Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., for not allowing Democrats to offer amendments. King told Democrats when conference negotiations began that it was his intention to allow them to offer amendments. But no follow-up meeting was ever held.

Thompson said he feels that King lied to him. "When a person tells you to your face that you will have an opportunity to offer an amendment and then just absolutely ignores his word, that damages all the good will that has gone before in the committee," Thompson said. "Most of us come to conference with only our word, and when you violate your word to another member that damages relationships."

When asked for a response, a spokesman for King said only, "These comments don't warrant a response."

Democrats intended to offer amendments to the bill that would have boosted funding for rail and transit security and lifted the cap on the number of passenger and baggage screeners that the Transportation Security Administration can employ.

"All Chairman King had to do was give us an opportunity to present our amendments, and if we lost, then so be it," Thompson said.

Republican leaders convened one formal House-Senate conference meeting that allowed full Democratic participation, but the text of the pending port security conference agreement was not available. So, lawmakers gave their opening statements but were not allowed to offer amendments.

But the next day Republican conferees, at the behest of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., attached a bill to stop banks and credit-card companies from processing payments to the $12 billion online gambling industry. The online gambling measure was a legislative priority of the Family Research Council and other conservative Christian groups who play a critical role in the GOP presidential nominating process.

Though angered by this last-minute maneuver, Democrats ultimately voted overwhelmingly to approve the port security bill, saying it was too important to oppose. The bill was signed into law earlier this month.

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

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

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    Download
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    Download
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    Download
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    Download
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    Download
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    Download
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    Download

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