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Homeland Chiefs Ask for $700K

New House Select Committee Expected to Carry 48 Members

Even as federal officials move the government to a higher state of alert to deal with the increased threat of terrorist attacks, Congress is still only beginning to organize to handle homeland security issues. Reps. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.) and Jim Turner (D-Texas), the chairman and ranking member of a new Select Committee on Homeland Security, will ask for $700,000 in “seed money” to begin operations of the nascent panel, the two lawmakers said on Friday.

The full House may get the request as early as this week. Those funds would cover committee operations until the end of March, when Cox and Turner hope to have completed an oversight proposal that will allow them to seek additional money for the remainder of the 108th Congress.

“We expect to be on the floor next week with a committee funding resolution for the Homeland Security Committee,” said Cox, who is also the chairman of the Republican Policy Committee.

“A startup of any committee has certain fixed expenses just to get you going,” Turner added. “This will allow us to do that and help put together a staff.”

The funding request, if approved, will allow the committee to hire a “core staff” to help craft its oversight plan, which Cox anticipates “will double” as a funding request.

While Cox and Turner are still unsure where their committee will actually meet, Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) are expected to begin naming Members to the panel soon, possibly as early as this week.

The committee ratio is expected to be 26 Republicans to 22 Democrats, a larger committee than had been anticipated by many House insiders, although the exact number may still change.

On the GOP side, a number of committee chairmen will be named to the panel. The list includes Appropriations Chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.), Agriculture Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Armed Services Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Energy and Commerce Chairman Billy Tauzin (R-La.), International Relations Chairman Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), Judiciary Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss (R-Fla.).

Rules Chairman David Dreier (R-Calif.) is also expected to play a pivotal role in the new panel, which may require changes in House rules.

Pelosi isn’t expected to make her assignments until this week, but the clock is ticking since all committees are required to hold their first organizational meeting by Feb. 15.

Several Democratic sources said Pelosi is facing tremendous lobbying pressure from members of her Caucus who want to serve on the new committee. Many politically vulnerable Members on both sides of the aisle are interested in serving on the panel, and it is expected that her appointments will include at least one freshman and perhaps some ranking members.

“It’s an enormous number,” Brendan Daly, spokesman for Pelosi, said of the Democratic interest. “We have a large number of Members who want to be on it. Members know how important this committee is and we want to get very good Members on there.”

Among those being mentioned as interested in getting on the committee are Democratic Reps. Ken Lucas (Ky.), Jane Harman (Calif.), Peter DeFazio (Ore.), Brian Baird (Wash.) and James Oberstar (Minn.).

Daly said it’s unlikely the Democratic assignments will include too many ranking members since the Minority Leader has said anyone joining Homeland Security must relinquish another committee slot. Many of the ranking members already hold two assignments and would have to give up one to join the homeland panel.

Daly said Pelosi is looking for: “People who have some standing on the issue or background, that they have something that they can bring to the committee, that they have knowledge of the issues — those are the people we will put on there.”

Turner said he has been in discussion with Pelosi about whom to appoint to the new committee. “[Pelosi] obviously will appoint individuals that she believes will do the job well and the names she has discussed with me are all very good people.”

On the Senate side, the Governmental Affairs Committee, now chaired by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), is responsible for overseeing homeland security issues.

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