The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held a markup today of S. 2145, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sen. Collins, Sen. Lieberman et al.
A number of amendments were brought forward in the markup. An amendment from Sen. Voinovich (the largest recipient of donations from the chemical industry in the Senate) that would have pre-empted the ability of states to set their own, more stringent chemical security regulations failed on a 9-7 vote. And an amendment by Sen. Lautenberg and Sen. Lieberman that would have strengthened the bill’s language regarding inherently safer technologies (ISTs) failed on an 11-5 vote.
The failure of these two amendments is on balance a good thing. The bill as it is presently written strikes a fair compromise between the competing interests on this bill, and any significant modifications to it are likely to either undermine its effectiveness or harm its chance of passage.
The Senate was unable to finish marking up the bill today; Sen. Voinovich indicated that he had additional amendments to bring forward, and Sen. Pryor has an amendment to add the House’s legislation on ammonium nitrate regulation to the bill. Sen. Collins noted that she would schedule a follow-on session in the coming days.
The legislation is likely to emerge out of committee largely unmolested, given the voting patterns on the amendments today, and the emergence of a moderate bloc of senators (including sponsors Collins, Coleman, Levin, and Carper) who were consistently opposed to making significant changes to the underlying bill. But the real challenge, after it passes out of committee, will be getting it to the floor. Indeed, Sen. Voinovich threatened to do all that he could to block the bill from reaching the floor if his amendments were not approved.
This legislation is too important to block. As Sen. Collins noted in her opening statement, most homeland security experts agree that this is the #1 unaddressed vulnerability in our homeland security system – an assessment with which I concur. If the bill emerges out of committee but does not reach the floor, that would continue to leave the nation at unnecessary risk of a chemical plant attack, and would be a dereliction of duty of the leadership of the Senate.
For more information, here’s a preview of the markup from GovExec. And I’ll add links to additional stories as they become available.
Update (6/14): A good post-markup summary is available at GovExec.