Hoping to kick the new Select Committee on Homeland Security into gear, ranking member Jim Turner (D-Texas) has sent Chairman Chris Cox (R-Calif.) a list of 27 topics on which the panel could hold its first hearing.
Topping the list is a hearing on the Department of Homeland Security’s fiscal 2004 budget request.
Turner and his fellow Democrats also want numerous hearings that would allow the committee to gain a better understanding of what exactly the new Cabinet department is doing.
“This is the most important committee in Congress because it is about the security of the American people,” Turner said Wednesday.
As the department approaches its 100th day of existence, the committee has yet to hold a full hearing, Turner said.
“The success of the new department … rests part in our hands,” Turner wrote Cox in a March 31 letter accompanying the hearing request list. “The degree to which we are able to conduct vigorous and effective oversight of the department will be a critical factor in its early development and immediate ability to accomplish its vital mission.”
For his part, Cox said he has talked to Turner several times about the list and that “we will do all of that and more.”
Every subcommittee has met several times and the full committee has met three times, he added.
The panel will hold a full hearing with Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, the chairman said, adding that he plans to announce the exact date soon.
“We don’t know how well we’re doing with the new agency,” Turner said, stressing that is why the committee needs to swing into action sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, Democrats will continue to have briefings with department officials and begin working on legislation, including a fiscal 2004 authorization bill, and churn out minority reports, he said.
“Maybe there’s been a sense that this a new department and we should let it find its sea legs,” Turner said, “but we’re talking about a serious matter and the American people deserve accountability.”