Senate rejects GOP changes to anti-terrorism bill

The Senate on Tuesday defeated two Republican-backed amendments to a homeland security bill, passing the legislation late in the afternoon.

The bill aims to implement unfulfilled recommendations of the commission that investigated the 2001 terrorist attacks. Democrats and a handful of Republicans voted to table two amendments from Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

The first amendment would have caused every provision in the bill to expire in five years. Coburn argued that the so-called sunset provision was necessary in order to ensure congressional review of homeland security policy.

"We don't know what the terrorism situation is going to be in five years," he said. "None of us know exactly what we need to do five years from now, and a sunset will not cause this to lapse. It will cause us to act."

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., led opposition to the amendment, calling it "disruptive" and "bizarre." He said the bill contains numerous provisions to update security policies based on lessons learned in recent years.

The second Coburn amendment would have required the Homeland Security Department to comply with a federal law that prohibits improper payments. The amendment would have prohibited grants to state and local governments until the department certified the fiscal integrity of how grants were being managed and spent.

The National Governors Association opposed the amendment, arguing that it would have prevented state governments from receiving grants. Coburn said his amendment would have forced Homeland Security to better manage its money.

"That is tough love. It's putting them under the gun," he said. "That's exactly what we're supposed to do. As this amendment goes down ... the senators are going to reject the very idea of having accountability."

Senate Homeland Security Committee ranking Republican Susan Collins of Maine led opposition to the amendment, saying it would "halt" grant programs, and penalize emergency responders and state agencies for faults of the Homeland Security Department.

"It isn't just the governors and the emergency managers; it's also the Department of Homeland Security that strongly opposes the amendment," she added.

Off Capitol Hill, meanwhile, experts addressed the security priorities of the 110th Congress at a security technology summit hosted by Equity International.

Rob Housman, the founder of the Housman Group, a public affairs firm specializing in homeland security, said Democrats have made the issue a top priority. He noted the party's push for better rail security and more cargo screening.

Veronique Pluviose-Fenton, the policy director at the House Homeland Security Committee, said panel Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., wants to work with the department to "provide resources and staff where Congress can." She added that Thompson said the nation "can't do homeland security on the cheap."

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:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

    Download
  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

    Download
  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

    Download
  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

    Download
  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care

    Download

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