All of the House committees with jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security have for the first time agreed they will begin coordinating their oversight functions with the aim of producing an annual policy bill that would govern the department’s nearly two dozen agencies.
Chairmen of eight House committees signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to coordinate with the House Homeland Security Committee “to produce a comprehensive authorization bill for the department,” according to a copy of the agreement obtained by CQ. The agreement will be entered into the Congressional Record Thursday.
The committees agreed they would come up with a process to vet and clear the basic text as well as amendments during the department’s annual budget markup process but pledged that the Homeland Security Committee would not add any revenue provisions.
“We are finally on a solid path to overhaul the Department of Homeland Security and make sure it stays ahead of threats to our country,” House Homeland Security Chairman Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in a statement. McCaul led the effort to produce the agreement.
In addition to the Homeland Security committee, the other panels include Energy and Commerce; Judiciary; Intelligence; Oversight and Reform; Science, Space and Technology; Transportation and Infrastructure; and Ways and Means.
If the arrangement succeeds, it would be one step toward authorizing the department for the first time since it was created in 2002 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. A similar effort in the Senate would be needed to produce a common bill. Reorganizing the messy congressional oversight of the Homeland Security Department is the one recommendation of the Sept. 11 Commission that has remained unfinished, as more than 100 committees and subcommittees across both chambers exercise some supervision over the department.
While lawmakers routinely criticize the department for its inefficient management, they have done little until now to change how Congress supervises it. The House Homeland Security Committee, for example, only oversees the Transportation Security Administration out of the nearly two dozen DHS agencies.
In September, McCaul said he wanted to change that by amending House rules at the start of the 115th Congress to bring all of DHS under the supervision of his committee. But that effort appeared to run into opposition as several chairmen of other House committees were unwilling to give up their turf. The memorandum of understanding reached today is an alternative to achieve the same goal, congressional sources said.
Asked if the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee plans to come up with a similar agreement, a committee aide said she was unaware of such a move.