Legislative Activity

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Nomination Hearings

Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Thomas Carper (D-DE) and Ranking Member Tom Coburn (R-OK) continue to criticize the outstanding number of open leadership slots at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Last week, the committee held a hearing to consider nominees to head the National Protection and Programs Directorate and the Office of the General Counsel. They highlighted four senior positions still lacking nominees, and in particular urged the Administration to submit nominations for DHS Inspector General – which has been vacant for two years – and a new DHS Secretary since Janet Napolitano stepped down.

Immigration and Border Security

President Barack Obama continues to reject calls to halt deportations of undocumented immigrants while Congress debates immigration reform. As the reform effort has stalled in the House, immigration advocates are focusing on the nearly 400,000 annual deportations that are still ongoing. However, President Obama claims he does not have the legal authority to halt the deportations. Therefore, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) argues that it will need additional funding from Congress to operate at full capacity, including continuing deportation activities. The House draft of the short-term Continuing Resolution (CR) (H. J. Res. 59), would give funding flexibility to ICE and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to maintain staffing and operations by reallocating funds from other programs. If the CR does not pass, ICE claims it may once again be forced to release undocumented immigrants in detention because it cannot pay for the necessary number of beds.

National Flood Insurance Program

Under the 2012 “MAP-21” surface transportation bill (Pub. L. 112-141), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is required to gradually raise insurance rates so that property owners’ payments reflect their actual risk of flooding instead of subsidized rates granted in the past. Congress passed this provision of MAP-21 to help the program offset $24 billion in debt. As a result, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate will phase in increased premiums for flood insurance unless Congress changes the current law. Senators representing coastal states, such as Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and David Vitter (R-LA), hope to stop the premium increases by adding language to a CR, but Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) does not expect premium increases to be reversed because he argues the program is still in debt and needs the higher payments to become solvent.

This Week’s Hearings:

  • Wednesday September 25: The Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee will hold a full committee business meeting on the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act.