The committee established by Congress to advise the government on how to prevent another 9/11-scale attack recommended in its 2004 report that Congress get out of the way of the Department of Homeland Security and let its leaders do their job.
A decade later, that still hasn’t happened.
The Department of Homeland Security says that in 2013, its staff held more than 1,650 congressional briefings and had 161 witnesses appear at 105 hearings. By Homeland Security’s count, the hours it has spent to meet the demands of Congress cost the agency the equivalent of 66 work years.
It’s not just a waste of taxpayer dollars, says House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, but a misuse of the valuable resources that could be otherwise spent stopping the next terrorist attack.
“Congress has not done its job and it takes away from the primary focus and mission of protecting the American people,” the Texas Republican said at a committee hearing Wednesday while holding up a map of the various committees DHS reports to. “This is dysfunctional. If you look up dysfunctional in the dictionary you will probably see this map.”
McCaul says he wants to lead the effort to finally put in place the 9/11 Commission’s recommendation to establish one point of oversight and review for the agency.
“Everyone knows that when everyone is in charge, no one is,” said Jamie Gorelick, a member of the 9/11 Commission who testified Wednesday before the Homeland Security Committee. The commission produced a follow-up report this week to honor the 10-year anniversary of the original recommendations.
9/11 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean said there was no one he talked to who didn’t say congressional oversight was a major problem impeding antiterrorism efforts.
“Four [Homeland Security] secretaries now, two Republicans and two Democrats, have all said to us the most important problem they have in fighting terrorism is the Congress,” Kean said. “That’s their biggest obstacle.”
While the executive branch has undergone “historic change and institutional reform” over the last decade, Kean said, Congress has resisted reforms in a way that is counterproductive.
DHS staff are “not working every day on protecting the American people if they’re preparing and giving testimony to the U.S. Congress,” Kean said. “Could you imagine having 90 different bosses? How could you get anything done?”
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“A bill headed for President Barack Obama this week includes a provision that would ban U.S. imports of fish caught by slaves in Southeast Asia, gold mined by children in Africa and garments sewn by abused women in Bangladesh, closing a loophole in an 85-year-old tariff law.” The Senate approved the bill, which would also ban Internet taxes and overhaul trade laws, by a vote of 75-20. It now goes to President Obama.
Bernie Sanders has closed to within seven points of Hillary Clinton in a new Morning Consult survey. Clinton leads 46%-39%. Consistent with the New Hampshire voting results, Clinton does best with retirees, while Sanders leads by 20 percentage points among those under 30. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is far ahead with 44% support. Trailing by a huge margin are Ted Cruz (17%), Ben Carson (10%) and Marco Rubio (10%).
President Obama became a surprise topic of contention toward the end of the Democratic debate, as Hillary Clinton reminded viewers that Sanders had challenged the progressive bona fides of President Obama in 2011 and suggested that someone might challenge him from the left. “The kind of criticism that we’ve heard from Senator Sanders about our president I expect from Republicans, I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama,” she said. “Madame Secretary, that is a low blow,” replied Sanders, before getting in another dig during his closing statement: “One of us ran against Barack Obama. I was not that candidate.”
It’s all about the 1% and Wall Street versus everyone else for Bernie Sanders—even when he’s talking about race relations. Like Hillary Clinton, he needs to appeal to African-American and Hispanic voters in coming states, but he insists on doing so through his lens of class warfare. When he got a question from the moderators about the plight of black America, he noted that during the great recession, African Americans “lost half their wealth,” and “instead of tax breaks for billionaires,” a Sanders presidency would deliver jobs for kids. On the very next question, he downplayed the role of race in inequality, saying, “It’s a racial issue, but it’s also a general economic issue.”
It’s been said in just about every news story since New Hampshire: the primaries are headed to states where Hillary Clinton will do well among minority voters. Leaving nothing to chance, she underscored that point in her opening statement in the Milwaukee debate tonight, saying more needs to be done to help “African Americans who face discrimination in the job market” and immigrant families. She also made an explicit reference to “equal pay for women’s work.” Those boxes she’s checking are no coincidence: if she wins women, blacks and Hispanics, she wins the nomination.