Attempting to resolve a long-standing issue of widely distributed jurisdiction over policy matters related to the Department of Homeland Security, 10 House committee chairs on Monday agreed to regular authorization bills for the department and its components, and that they will work with the Homeland Security Committee as best they can on comprehensive legislation for the department.
The Memorandum of Understanding among the committee chairs doesn’t consolidate oversight of DHS in the House within the Homeland Security panel but it puts them on record as basically saying they will work more closely.
“The execution of this agreement represents a significant breakthrough in the House’s effort to address the long-standing 9/11 Commission recommendation that there be a principal committee in each chamber to oversee the Department of Homeland Security,” Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement. “While I regret that the Homeland Security Committee’s jurisdiction was not expanded, the committees with jurisdiction over part of DHS are poised to collaborate to an unprecedented degree to put the department on a positive path.”
While the agreement among the chairs should help the House agree to regular policy bills to guide DHS and its components, it doesn’t address the fact that DHS leaders answer to multiple congressional committees, which is a serious strain on their time.
The memorandum was signed by the chairs of the Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Homeland Security, Intelligence, Judiciary, Oversight and Reform, Transportation and Infrastructure, Ways and Means, and Science, Space and Technology Committees.
“To the maximum extent practicable, the committees with jurisdiction over components of the department will coordinate with the Committee on Homeland Security to produce comprehensive authorization legislation of the department and consult with the Committee on Homeland Security prior to consideration of component authorization legislation in a committee markup,” the agreement says. “Prior to consideration of component authorization legislation in a committee markup, the Committee on Homeland Security will consult with any other committee that is part to this agreement that is a committee with jurisdiction over that component.”
Authorization bills related to DHS are typically done piecemeal by the relevant committees in the House rather than in one package.
The agreement was signed off by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).