Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 9, 2006

Port bill heads to the Senate floor

Filed under: Congress and HLS,Port and Maritime Security — by Christian Beckner on August 9, 2006

GovExec reported yesterday on plans to bring port security legislation to the floor of the Senate after the August recess:

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairwoman Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Commerce Committee Chairman Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, have reached an agreement to allow a major maritime security bill to move forward, paving the way for floor action in September, according to a congressional source.

The bill had been bottled up because it contains provisions that cut across the jurisdictional lines of the two committees.

The source said Collins and Stevens have resolved their differences, and Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has said he will bring the bill to the floor next month.

….The source added, however, that some final details still might have to be worked out with Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, because the bill involves the use of customs fees. “Finance is in the mix on this, too,” the source said.

The passage of port security legislation this year would play an important role in strengthening and aligning the nation’s various port security-related programs. If the Senate can pass this bill quickly and reconcile it with the House’s SAFE Ports Act, that would be a significant homeland security win for Congress this year. However, the fact that this impasse between the HSGAC and Commerce lasted so long is another point of evidence (along with the current fight on chemical security) that the Senate leadership needs to take a fresh look at congressional jurisdiction over homeland security in the 110th Congress. Too many Senate committees still have fingers (if not hands) in the homeland security pie, making it difficult for the Senate to move forward on meaningful homeland security legislation.

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