TCS Daily


Promises to Keep

By Richard Weitz - December 27, 2006 12:00 AM

Having achieved majority status in both houses of Congress in the last election, Democrats have announced plans to enact the outstanding 9/11 Commission proposals into law. But implementing all the remaining recommendations will prove difficult, at least during the opening weeks of the next Congress.

Any plans to reorganize and streamline the jurisdiction of Congressional committees might need to overcome resistance on the part of their newly empowered Democratic committee chairs.

For example, a bill sponsored in the 109th session by Reps. Christopher Shays (R-CT) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) would give the House Committee on Homeland Security exclusive jurisdiction over issues relating to the Department of Homeland Security, which would effectively reduce the oversight authority of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. This same bill would award the House Committee on Intelligence exclusive authority over intelligence matters, including those involving the Department of Defense (which currently falls under the purview of the House Committee on Armed Services). The incoming Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, has announced she would give the House Intelligence Committee authority to oversee the budgets (now the responsibility of a House Appropriations subcommittee) as well as the operations of the intelligence agencies.

Furthermore, Senator Joe Lieberman has become head of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. It is not at all clear how he will relate with his former party colleagues, many of whom campaigned against him in the 2006 general election, now that he has become a "Democratic Independent."

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), who will become chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told reporters that "there will still be some split jurisdiction," but insisted that Democrats "can make it work." These complications rightly led former 9/11 Commission co-chairs Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, in their book Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission, to call the task of restructuring congressional oversight of homeland security issues both "the most difficult and the most important."

Moreover, technical limitations might prevent the rapid enactment of some plans. For example, restructuring the complex network of interlinked immigration databases—created for different purposes and managed by different U.S. government agencies—into a comprehensive and integrated entry and exit screening system operating at all U.S. land ports of entry will require considerable time. Technical breakthroughs will also be necessary to develop effective radiation screening equipment for all cargo containers entering U.S. seaports. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, currently available systems are too costly for widespread use and suffer from a range of operational problems.

For all these reasons, the new Congress is less likely to implement rapidly and completely all remaining 9/11 Commission recommendations than to selectively increase funding for and shift emphasis among various homeland security programs. Despite the earlier Democratic campaign statements, certain influential Democrats—including Rep. Thompson, the new chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security—have indicated they would accept a less than total enactment of all 9/11 recommendations: "On some of the more controversial issues of cargo screening and other things, I think we can work out a compromise."

The new Congress will probably also hold more oversight hearings on homeland security issues. Enactment of the Ensuring Implementation of the 9/11 Commission Report Act, sponsored by the Democrats in the 109th Congress, would encourage this increased focus on such hearings. Most of its provisions simply require the executive branch to offer a variety of reports to Congress, typically on a monthly basis, on its progress in implementing the 9/11 Commission recommendations. For example, the Secretary of Homeland Security must report on the status of the Incident Command System, the national critical infrastructure risk and vulnerabilities assessment, and international cooperation on border and travel document security. Similarly, the Comptroller General must report on private sector preparedness, federal first responder training programs, and efforts to consolidate the nation's numerous terrorist watch lists.

What Congress will do with all these reports remains unclear. Members appear to pay little attention to many of the information documents they already receive from the U.S. Department of Defense. If these monitoring structures and reports are genuinely needed to provide vital information, then perhaps it would make most sense to delay proposing specific legislative solutions until the data they seek become available.


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19 Comments

and miles to go before...
The author says he's unsure what congress might actually do after travelling all those miles of consideration. It could turn out that they'll do what congress and such predatory bodies often do in such situations, and as the poem suggests.....GO TO SLEEP.

back to reality, and thank god for gridlock - - - -
Remember, the eminence not-so-gris of W's veto pen will hang over the Dems, constantly. They will get nothing done, but their usual treasonous blather.

We are now getting ready for the the next important political event, '08's elections. Well - -, before you complain, it's better than blood feuds and civil war. That's a comfort.

The Lobby
Every member of Congress required millions of dollars to win an election. It is part of democracy. The special interests who supply funds to both Democrats and Republicans have their own agenda.

Average Americans wonder sometimes about why a particular piece of legislation isn't passed. The influence of special interests is frequently the reason. An example might be the fence recently built along the Mexican border. The fence is 700 miles long, but the border is 2500 miles long. Sound fishy?

fishy?
Take a look at the border.

Walls near cities have been effective pushing illegals to desert and mountain crossings.

Or, if you built 700 1 mile long fences, that would leave 2-3 mile gaps between the fence sections. Much easier to patrol.

But your main point is that each lobbyist only has one vote. It is up to us to vote the bas*ard out. Unless, of course, he is our bas*ard.

Commitees and Studies
Nothing like these windbags sitting around doing nothing while study, after study, is performed. The congress has reached a level of uselessness unsurpassed in history. These self serving windbags are so arrogant in power that they are incapable of making any right decisions for the nation. All decisions are made only to advance incumbency at our expense. Nothing is going to change until we have an electoral revolution and clean both houses. A prime example is the ultimate windbag, Ted Kennedy. When will the people of Massachusetts ever get a brain and dump that loser? I for one remember when Warren Magnuson got dumped. He was so sure of victory he didn’t even campaign. It was priceless the look on his face. I would toast the same for Teddy.?

MA Republicans
They do not exist.

Two candidates ran in a primary to oppose Kennedy.

If the party really wanted to try, they would find a really good candidate.

But there are still people in MA who adore the Kennedys and will vote for them no matter who they kill.

Kerry may be easier to knock off.

Also, Kennedy has a huge machine which supports senior citizens. Since so many seniors are leaving MA, Kennedy has to support illegals to keep his power base.

Too bad getting results are unlikely to figure in these "reforms"
Just as the dhimmiecrats reformed intelligence in the 70s and national security under Clinton its doubtful new reforms will enhance the effectiveness of these organizations nor provide the American people with greater safety.

exactly right
But there has to be a way to bring in a more centerist Democrat that could knock off both. the problem is at the national level. Democrats do not want the centerists, they are trying to swing as far left as they can. The idiot fringe has a lot of power and the left-to-far left has control of this party.

The Reps have had years to do these things....
Luckly you've got the Dems to blame for them not happening.

quite right
And who would they whine about if they didn't have Dems?

Thats a million dollar question. They're going to whine about someone. Control of all 3 branches, and they still whined incessantly about others. Someone has to be blamed, its never their fault. The one common trait of the right, pointy finger.

Blame it on....
we the people for continuing to sell our votes to people like Byrd or Kennedy or (take favorite porker).

Tom Foley, Rostenkowski and Daschle proved no seat is 100% safe. It just needs people speaking out about the corruption.

And if the MSM won't do it, it is up to the PJ media, we the people, to do it.

right, marjon
The only way to beat the financial influence of special interests is to get the voters informed about the issues.
It's a difficult thing to accomplish. I think we're seeing a positive development with the illegal immigration issue. People in the U.S. are tired of being played as suckers. Good Americans want our borders controlled. Americans are seeing the effect of decades of illegal migration from Mexico and Central America. Hispanics comprise a much higher percentage of the total U.S. population than they did 50 years ago!

If only...
I don't think illegal immigration would have been so noticable if it were simply an increase in Hispanics.

Recent demonstrations around the country raised a flas as did so many dying in the AZ deserts or being busted in Maine.

But that's what happens when law is diminished. If the USA doesn't care about immigration law why should illegal immigrants care about any US law?

Hispanic Population
You probably don't live in a region of the country with a large Hispanic population. I live in Arizona. The results of our broken border with Mexico are definitely noticable here. I see many unskilled, poorly educated mexican-americans everyday. Almost every female illegal migrant has a baby less than a year after crossing to get welfare from the federal government. The second generation migrants are automatically U.S. citizens. Hispanics comprise about four times the percentage of U.S. population they did 50 years ago.

When I lived in Tucson...
I noticed the illegal immigration problem with so many more dying in the desert and the emergency room at TMC having to close.

And people are afraid to hunt south too close to the border for fear of running into a drug smuggler.

I had been away from Tucson for about 10 years and noticed many more cars in Tucson with Sonora plates and more Mexican plates in general.

But it wasn't just the number of hispanics. They were always a majority in the area.

veto pens
That's assuming Bush can remember where he put it.

ho, - - -
ho, ho, Mark, good one !

Two-Party Republic...No Democracy here...
Got to love Americans. We really need to believe that we have a democratic choice regarding our leaders.

All we heard before November was "Boy oh boy! The Democrats are going to take over the Congress and things are really going to change now."

Look, people, we have a philosophically homogeneous government with centrist moderates from both parties dominating national politics generally and both congressional bodies in detail. At the center, one such candidate is almost indistinguishable from his opposite number across the isle. Who cares if the Senators from Massachusetts are flaming wienie liberals and the Senators from Califonia are tough talking liberal girls? This makes the country think that we have a balanced democracy with the possibility for fundamental change. This is theatre. And there is an equal sprinkling of mad dog neoconservatives. More such theatre.

Heartland politicians work hard for their constituancies. They hold onto their core voters and appeal to the moderate, swing voting, undecided types who actually get them elected. If they are maintstream types then they join whatever party dominates their district. If they are rebellious types then they join the opposition pary and play to their strengths.

The two major parties comfortably share absolute power and they need each other to complete the illusion. They will become emotional and combative regarding such pretend issues as tax reform, gay marriage, immigration, the minimum wage, legalizing marijuana and abortion rights. Because these pointless matters actually motivate angry voters.

But profound changes? A serious move to downsize government agencies out of our personal affairs? A reexamination of the concept and the institution of sovereignty that is failing citizens all over the world and that might be anachronistic in the Post Industrial Society and in the Post Cold War world? Nope. The US government is undergoing no such searching of its soul. The Sovereign is self-serving and utterly self-perpetuating. Do not rock this boat.

Pure democracies routinely deliver corrupt, weak central governments. Yet we keep pushing such democracy onto struggling, developing nations. (Perhaps we enjoy pushing the weak central governments of other nations around.) However, certain major republics without any pretense of democracy are financially competitive in the global arena and their people seem fine. (We hate that.)

Let's not kid ourselves regarding freedom in America. Our own police enjoy a kill ratio against American citizens equivalent with that in a modern war zone. 30:1. 50:1 Look it up. You will not find hard numbers.

America is literally (militarily) occupied by several types of local, county and state police, the National Guard, ATF, DEA, FBI, the Secret Service, Customs, Border Patrol, Coast Guard, TSA, Treasury agents. The CIA may or may not be operating domestically. Even the Fire Chief carries a gun and occasionally he executes a civilian. Prison guards are on the job if you get put away and the Marines will definitely show up in your yard if it should ever come to that.

American is the most sovereign of all sovereign states. Our government has absolute control of our "life, liberty, health and property". And the government is going to keep it that way. They are so very confident that they have total control of us that the US government is inclined to impose itself on the rest of the world way past its treaty obligations to protect our allies.

For example, the regime change in Iraq? Perfect. But imposing a weak democratic government on their society and then policing the resulting anarchy? No good. We are way out of line with this occupation. But it is starting to look like we will keep at it now until the next election. And then we will discontinue that particular foolishness. No matter who gets to sleep in the White House every night.

America is simply adjusting itself to our role in the world. If we have overreached with Iraq then the next time we will know better. It's OK. (I actually still like Colin Powell for the job. But the nation could go with Barack Obama. And that would be fine too.)

Don't expect anything much to change with America whichever party comes to power. Because this nation works just great the way it is. If you want to change something in your world then don't think too much about changing anything about our government. You need to work through the system or in spite of the system. But you should get used to the system exactly the way it is.

Really interesting
But you go off course by claiming both sides are centerist. Democrats began leaning decidedly left of center during the Reagan administration. Now, the left fringe is certainly gaining momentum in the party. Ironically, the Republicans were often more 'liberal' (at least on certain issues) than the Democrats in the 60s and 70s. It was Reagan who changed that as well.

Election politics has always been an ugly business, but the rhetoric has always died down after the election was over. Not anymore! No president has been more vilified by the opposing party than both the Bushes (especially Jr.). The republicans ramped up the rhetoric against Clinton between these two. I hate to see what this election cycle, and post election rhetoric, will be like. If the past 20 years is any indication, it will be very bad.

And Democrats can win it all in 08, even without a true centerist candidate. Personally, I don't see Hillary or Obama winning the Democratic primary right now. It is way too early to pick a true front runner and there are too many possibilities right now. Should Powell run as s democrat, he would be a strong choice; and he is just one example.

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