Wednesday, September 15, 2010

National Politics--Out on a Limb?

At the risk of being non-germane to readers interests or even my own specialities now willing to predict with the primary season having been ended that the Senate will remain in Democratic hands. This has important implications for Homeland Security and Emergency Management. This conclusion is based on the facts that result from this guesstimate of mine.

First, Senate confirmation of SCOTUS nominees will be controlled by the DEMS. Looking increasingly like Obama may well have one or two more SCOTUS appointments his first (and only?) term! Given two confirmations so far of his appointees this has important consequences and could be viewed long term as his most important domestic achievement regardless of other events or metrics, i.e. a failed economy.

Second, probably means in the 112th Congress Senator Lieberman will remain in the position of Chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. This is tragic since his ego has long ago exceeded his competence, and the willingness of Ranking Minority Member Susan Collins Repubican of Maine to follow his lead has led to the collapse of effective oversight of DHS. With DHS management overhead staffing and costs rising to over 40% of its budget and likely to climb to 50% over next several years this means that the tooth to tail ratio in DHS is almost prohibitive of good governance and Homeland Security and Emergency Management. I view management as all those in any bureacracy that actually have no impact on the public but just those who talk to other bureacrats including those in the Executive Offices of the White House. Let this conclusion stand, while the Senate oversight of DHS is slightly more competent than than that of the HOUSE it still is not effective. The Senate needs to focus on DHS priorities or they will be lost in the mishmash of a department with almost 1000 politically vetted positions.

Additionally both Lieberman and Collins have no idea what FEMA is about and it is about to drift off into irrelevance as the Adminstration like all others before it fails to create an effective domestic civil crisis management and response and recovery system and chain of command. DHS is not in any way an all-hazards agency but perhaps the revisions of various HSPDs and Executive Orders could make it one.

Finally, the one life preserver that helped maintain any kind of coherence and priority setting in DHS so far in its history is about to collapse. Instead of having its own appropriation bill it is now very likely that DHS will have its appropriation rolled into a long-term continuing resolution that will last until next EASTER. Those outside of the federal executive branch have no idea of how manipulative and destructive a CR is to good government and allows OMB to dictate to departments and agencies even in contravention of Presidential and Congressional directives. Yes, Matilda, OMB is a domestic terrorist organization when it comes to undermining preparedness and prevention and mitigation and response and recovery, and even planning.

And also a final thought, ask how much oversight the Senate intends to give to the BP CATASTROPHE in light of events and in light of a huge effort by BP in the form of political contributions and its huge mass media campaign. The latter is perhaps the largest effort in history by any corporation to avoid public accountability.

Please note that over 400 House passed bills will die at the end of this Congress (the 111th) and don't look for much Senate action if there is a lame duck session if the DEMS keep house control. Unknown what impact a HOUSE change of leadership to Republicans will have but perhaps a trickle of legislation might get through the Senate in the lame duck session.