Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee have
postponed work on the fiscal 2007 Homeland Security Department authorization bill, prompting heated criticism from Democrats who say the move might undermine the committee's credibility and prevent the measure from being completed this year.
According to a committee aide, Republican committee leaders say the delay is temporary while they work to pass a maritime security bill
. All 15 Democrats on the panel fired off a letter Thursday to Homeland Security Chairman Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., opposing the move. The committee did the first-ever authorization bill for Homeland Security last year, which overwhelmingly passed out of the House by a 424-4 vote. But the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee did not do an authorization bill, meaning Congress has not sent a final bill to President Bush since
the department was created more than three years ago. House Democrats fear the committee's credibility will be at stake if a fiscal 2007 authorization bill
is not completed. They said negotiations have indicated strong bipartisan agreement on many issues, and noted that the decision to postpone came only four days before markup sessions were scheduled to begin. Maritime and port security have been catapulted into the national spotlight in recent weeks after news broke that a Dubai-owned company was planning to take over terminal operations at several major U.S. ports. Although the company, Dubai Ports World
, announced March 9 it will turn over all its U.S. terminal operations to a U.S. entity, lawmakers still are moving quickly to pass legislation aimed at beefing up maritime security. (Source: GovExec.com)