Saturday’s New York Times editorial entitled “Wayward Eye on the Homeland” once again points out the failure of Congress to get its own house (and Senate) in order regarding Congressional oversight of the Department of Homeland Security. The fault for this situation lies in many places — this mish-mash of conflicting jurisdictions did not occur on its own. Republicans and Democrats share bipartisan responsibility for creating the mess and largely for the same reason: They did not want to give up turf in an environment where oversight is perceived as power and power leads to campaign contributions.
While the fault is widespread, the cure (or at least a major portion of it) lies on one desk, that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Insiders say that she is considering the idea of consolidating jurisdiction into a model that more closely resembles the House Armed Services Committee.
This is the right thing to do. However, Pelosi reportedly is seeking “top cover” from President-Elect Obama so that she can mitigate the political outbursts from committee members who could lose their oversight of DHS. Thus far Obama’s transition team has been silent on the issue.
If these reports are true, it demonstrates that Speaker Pelosi is unwilling to spend her own political capital to finish the job of enacting all of the 9-11 Commission recommendations that she touted as her top priority when she became Speaker. Her reluctance to do so is a signal that she is not the “leader” she would like for others to believe she is. As the New York Times editorial writers point out, the time for her to act on this issue has come. And if it takes a bit of prodding from the incoming Obama team, it is time for that to happen as well.