Frist, Daschle Name Working Group to Mull 9/11 Recommendations

Posted August 24, 2004 at 3:57pm

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) named 22 Senate colleagues to a working group that will mull the recommendations of the 9/11 commission concerning the chamber’s oversight of intelligence and homeland security.

In a news release issued jointly by Frist and Daschle, the pair of leaders said the group will begin its work immediately and will deliver its findings and recommendations “as expeditiously as possible.” The group is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

“There is no higher priority for the Senate than to implement those reforms [to oversight], and this working group’s efforts are vital to the success of the entire package,” Daschle said in the release.

The Governmental Affairs Committee is continuing to work separately on commission recommendations dealing with the organization of the country’s intelligence structure and homeland defense. But the committee’s chairwoman, Susan Collins (R-Maine), and ranking member, Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.), will also join the working group.

In fact, the consideration of reforms to Senate oversight could prove even thornier than the organizational reshuffling being studied at Governmental Affairs. If the commission gets its way, the ensuing changes will strip a sizable chunk of oversight from several powerful committees and their chairmen — among them the Appropriations Committee, whose function in intelligence matters would be shifted to a separate, stand-alone intelligence panel.

The working group will include Appropriations chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and ranking member Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), as well as Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) — the chairman and ranking member, respectively, on the Intelligence Committee.

Other chairman-and-ranking-member tandems in the working group include Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.) of the Armed Services Committee; Sens. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) and Joseph Biden (D-Del.) of the Foreign Relations Committee; and Sens. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on Rules and Administration.

Both New York Senators, Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) and Charles Schumer (D), were also appointed to the working group, though neither holds a position of seniority on a relevant committee — an apparent nod to the unique dangers faced by New York City in the homeland-security matrix. The working group will also include Sens. John Kyl (R) and John McCain (R) of Arizona, whose state is on the front line of efforts to control the nation’s borders.

Other members of the working group are both parties’ Whips, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.), as well as Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), who hold key positions on important committees and subcommittees. Rounding out the list is Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.).