Incoming House Republican Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) has been blazing a path for
reform, particularly at the committee level, denying some who felt it was their
“turn” to chair a panel when clearly they were the wrong choice for the post, then
structuring them with an eye toward true bipartisan input.
Yet there is one committee that continues to be hamstrung by jurisdictional politics and old habits that die hard. I’m referring to the Homeland Security Committee and the simple fact that it must share jurisdictional control over the department.
Even before the panel was created — and in the wake of the 9/11 attacks — it was clear Congress needed to exert its oversight powers over a mammoth new department being created by the Bush administration. Yet old dogs of the House and Senate refused to give up the powers they exerted over the newly created panel that merged over 40 different agency functions, such as the Coast Guard, FEMA, airport security, Customs and Border Protection.
What has occurred in the aftermath of such wrangling is a patchwork of requests from various chairmen and members of random committees to the department that it’s almost paralyzed from so many congressional requests. Of course, it’s not as bad as when the agency was first created, yet talking with officials on the inside, many still spend day after day running down various congressional inquiries, some duplicative and a waste of time.
Moving all of these functions under the Homeland Security panels in the Congress takes leadership and courage — something both John Boehner and Harry Reid have plenty of. Yes, feathers will be ruffled, but isn’t it worth it in the name of streamlining processes and efficient behaviors?
Do we really need to stroke more congressional egos simply because someone might be losing a bit of power if the country as a whole benefits?
Armstrong Williams is on Sirius/XM Power 169, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Monday through Friday. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside.