Senate appropriations panel reorganizes to accommodate Homeland Security

Senate Appropriations Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, is going to move ahead and reorganize his committee to accommodate the new Homeland Security Department in a way similar to the House Appropriations Committee reorganization earlier this month.

The plan would be to keep the total number of subcommittees at 13, but create a new Homeland Security Subcommittee that would oversee the Transportation Security Administration, the Coast Guard and a host of other legal and independent agencies that handle immigration and emergency-response efforts of the federal government.

Meanwhile, the other transportation agencies unrelated to homeland security would be merged with other White House entities in a new Transportation and Treasury Subcommittee.

Stevens reportedly was displeased earlier this year when House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bill Young, R-Fla., decided to announce his reorganization plan without first consulting with him. In the end, however, Stevens decided to largely adopt the House plan, mainly to avoid causing jurisdiction and intra-congressional disputes.

"We didn't want to have an internal fight," said a GOP committee aide.

But while the move might spare some House-Senate sniping, it could cause ripples among the 13 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee chairmen known as "cardinals."

Senators remained mum Tuesday on just who would be getting what under the new arrangement. However, the second-ranking Republican on the full committee, Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, currently chairs the agriculture subpanel. But the importance of the new homeland security subpanel-and the fact that it has jurisdiction over the Coast Guard-could make a jump an attractive option.

Cochran, who also is chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, may also want to branch out into other areas of expertise, given that he is in line to take the reins of the Appropriations Committee in two years because Stevens is term-limited.

Next in line on the full committee is Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., who has previously raised the idea of leaving the Labor-HHS Subcommittee that he currently chairs. But a Specter spokesman said the senator has made no public comment about his intentions.

Also undecided are Democrats. A spokesman for Appropriations ranking member Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., said Stevens has yet to brief Republicans on the reorganization and that any decisions about which Democratic senator-including Byrd-would take over as ranking member on the homeland security panel are premature.

A GOP committee aide said Stevens hopes to have the reorganization settled by the end of the week or by Monday.