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Homeland panel critic arises as its possible chairman

Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, could take over the House Homeland Security Committee if Rep. Chris Cox, R-Calif., is confirmed as SEC chairman.

House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young, R-Alaska, who frequently fought to limit the power of the Homeland Security Committee, could end up as its chairman.

The House approved the Homeland panel's permanent status in January despite objections from powerful committee chairmen, most notably Young, who finagled a post on the panel and is its most senior member with 17 terms.

Young's seat on the GOP Steering Committee, which selects committee chairmen, also could help his bid. Young's spokesman on Thursday would not rule out the possibility but said his boss has not "even thought about it yet."

Young's term as Transportation and Infrastructure chairman expires at the end of this session. He is negotiating a final deal on a transportation reauthorization conference report. Those talks face an end of June deadline. He jockeyed earlier this year to become vice chairman of the Homeland Security panel, prematurely releasing a statement claiming the post. House Homeland Security Chairman Chris Cox, R-Calif., later tapped Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa.

With President Bush's nomination of Cox Thursday as SEC chairman, most members were not prepared to say whether they would pursue the chairmanship. After Young, Reps. Lamar Smith of Texas, Weldon and Christopher Shays of Connecticut follow in GOP seniority.

Smith serves as chairman of the Judiciary Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee.

Weldon has been a longtime advocate of firefighters and other first responders and helped Cox secure the support of those groups. He also is chairman of the Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee.

Shays, chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations Subcommittee, said he will not seek to succeed Cox as chairman. He noted that he had colleagues with more seniority who will be pursuing the chairmanship. Other lawmakers that could make a run at chairmanship include Reps. John Linder, R-Ga., Mark Souder, R-Ind., and Dan Lungren, R-Calif.

The House created the Homeland Security panel after the 9/11 Commission last year recommended that Congress to have one panel to oversee the Homeland Security Department. The commission said administration officials were spending too much time testifying before 88 committees and subcommittees rather than fighting the war on terrorism. Cox successfully lobbied Hastert to support a permanent panel early on. He also attempted to placate other chairmen, who worried about losing authority, but some chairmen carved out territory in homeland security issues.