House GOP criticizes post-9/11 security measure

By Chris Strohm

January 8, 2007

House Homeland Security ranking member Peter King, R-N.Y., and his Republican staff fired an opening salvo on Monday against efforts by House Democrats to implement unfulfilled recommendations of the 9/11 Commission, setting the stage for an acrimonious scene when lawmakers meet Tuesday.

In a nine-page report released Monday, King and his staff argue that House Democrats are failing to implement all the 9/11 Commission recommendations and charge that Democrats voted against legislation in the past that would have enacted several key reforms.

The report also accuses Democrats of not providing a fair and open process for debating and passing their bill -- scheduled to be brought to the House floor Tuesday -- to implement the recommendations.

"In only their first few days in the majority, House Democratic leadership has already fallen short on the key security promise they made to the American people," King said in a statement. "Republicans have already enacted an overwhelming majority of the recommendations, and the opening of the 110th Congress was a terrific opportunity to finish the job. Unfortunately, it is amounting to nothing more than a missed opportunity. I'm very disappointed."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., House Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and two Democratic members of the 9/11 Commission fired back at a news conference, saying their bill will make America safer.

"This step tomorrow is a vital step for 9/11 reform and a giant leap for the national security of America," commission member Tim Roemer said.

The report by King and his staff opens with a published comment Pelosi gave to CongressDaily that House Democrats will pass all the 9/11 Commission recommendations on the first day they control Congress. But the report notes that the Democrats' bill does not address some recommendations, such as consolidating congressional oversight of the Homeland Security Department; transferring responsibility for paramilitary operations from the CIA to the Defense Department, and declassifying the overall intelligence budget.

The report also says the bill duplicates several Republican initiatives, such as overhauling the homeland security grant formula and creating a new grant program specifically for interoperability.

The report also criticizes Democrats for voting against legislation in the past three years that would have implemented some 9/11 Commission recommendations. It notes, for example, that House Democrats voted against the fiscal 2005 budget reconciliation bill, which established a $1 billion grant program specifically for interoperability and emergency communications.

"There's a clear contradiction here, as the Democrats all voted against the creation of a $1 billion interoperability grant program last Congress," King told CongressDaily. "I'm glad they've seen the light and now agree with our approach."

A Democratic aide said the fiscal 2005 bill was opposed on a party-line vote because it was so massive and included many measures Democrats did not support. "I don't think it's fair to say we voted against an interoperable grant program," the aide said.

By Chris Strohm

January 8, 2007