This was a vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Dent (R-PA) to H.R. 2868, the Homeland Security Act of 2002. H.R. 2868 was intended to enhance the protections against terrorist attacks of U.S. chemical facilities by establishing a number of new rules. The amendment would have extended the then-current Department of Homeland Security regulations until October of 2012, rather than establishing the new ones in the bill.
Rep. Dent, speaking in support of his amendment, noted that Congress “acted swiftly 3 years ago to give the Department of Homeland Security the regulatory authority it needed to secure (the chemical facilities). In the 3 years since, the Department has taken steps to implement that authority, but it is far from complete . . . The addition of drinking water and wastewater facilities (in) . . . this bill will double the 6,000 security vulnerability assessments already required by the Department. We are asking too much of the Department too soon. The bill proposes to nearly double the Department's workload. . . The Department should be allowed to fully implement its existing regulatory authority.”
Dent added: “By all accounts, including those of the Democratic majority, the Department is doing an excellent job implementing its current regulatory framework . . . If it isn't broken, don't fix it.” Rep. Olson, who co-sponsored the amendment, said that those opposing it want “to rush to solutions and mandate that the Department of Homeland Security scrap the current program and start over. Such a move would take 2 years of hard work and throw it out the window.”
Rep. Jackson-Lee (D-TX) opposed the amendment. She noted that it “would extend the current chemical security program for another 3 years without any of the security enhancements we included in H.R. 2868.” Jackson-Lee said the legislative description of the current program “was just (14 lines) long and had many deficiencies.” She argued that passage of the amendment would effectively be eliminating “inherently secure technology for chemical facilities . . . .”
She added that the effect of passing the amendment would be that Congress would ignore “our responsibility to respond to what we have learned and to make improvements to the program that the Bush and Obama administrations requested . . . If we merely extend the current program, we will sacrifice all of these improvements and ignore the countless hours of discussion and testimony that highlighted the need to strengthen this program in several key areas.”
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 186-241. One hundred and sixty-nine Republicans and seventeen Democrats voted “aye”. All two hundred and forty-one “nay” votes were cast by Democrats, including a majority of the most progressive House Members. As a result, the House rejected the amendment that would have maintained the existing Department of Homeland Security federal chemical facility security regulations, rather than imposing new ones.