Thursday, December 9, 2010

The New Secretary of DHS--REPUBLICAN

Okay! The Secretary of DHS was relatively uninformed about the power plays and permanent positions of power and influence when she was appointed and confirmed as Secretary. Just review her entry. But she is about to learn some very hard lessons starting on the day of the opening of the 112th Congress with the Republicans in ascension in the House of Representatives. She has never had to face or deal with a potentially hostile HOUSE in her career.

The new Chairman of the full House of Representatives full Appropriations Committee, Hal Rogers, R. of KY, is the new Pope of the appropriations College of Cardinals. After 1982 when GAO (not the courts) properly determined that authorization provisions appearing in appropriations statutes had the full force and impact of law challenges to the power of the approriations committees were few and far between. NO longer due the authorizing committees have much bottom line impact on policy because while they can reshape the efforts of the Executive Branch in subtle ways they cannot self-initiate new federal programs, functions, or activities without appropriations committee support.

A good friend, Professor Peter Raven-Hansen, J.D. author and principle editor of the finest law school text on NATIONAL SECURITY LAW wrote an entire book on the appropriation/authorization dichotomy that is still useful to read even though points of order on the floor of the Senate and House are no longer raised if the Appropriations Committees authorize some new program, function, or activity of the Executive Branch or even if they end something previously authorized by not funding that effort. A good example is about to appear in the potential defunding of the Health Care Reform law as opposed to trying to repeal the same.

With respect to Homeland Security and FEMA however Congressman, soon to be Chairman Rogers, will go to almost any length to promote DHS and FEMA operations in his homestate of Kentucky. His pressure was effective in seeing millions laid out for an ice storm that did heavily impact Kentucky but notice if memory serves, ice storms are not a listed reason for Presidential disaster declarations under the Robert T. Stafford Act. Of course no party has the ability to challenge the exercise of discretion by the President in making such a declaration. So the President is truly above the law in the declaration process.

So expect more disaster declarations for Kentucky. Oddly, a largely fiscally conservative President, Ronald Reagan, declared for his first disaster, the explosion of hexane in the sewers of Louisville KY in 1981. Suit against Ralston Purina recovered some of the disaster outlays. While only 3 square blocks of Louisville sewers were destroyed the system was largely totally rebuilt with federal dollars after that event. Hey eat those Rice Chexs!

Anyhow it will be fun to watch Hal Rogers dual with the heads of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee of the House and the Homeland Security Committee. I would not bet against Congressman Rogers. He is a savy conservative.