The homeland security bandwagon

Steve LeSueur

All of the sudden, Congress is in a hurry.

Since the 9/11 Commission issued its findings July 22, lawmakers have scheduled at least 15 congressional hearings to discuss the commission's recommendations, which include reorganizing the nation's intelligence operations and increasing the use of anti-terrorism technologies such as biometrics.

Moreover, since July 15, House and Senate lawmakers have introduced at least eight bills related to homeland security, including three on the day the commission released its report.

Why the rush? Because it's an election year, of course.

This level of activity -- much of it occurring during a congressional recess -- is unprecedented, congressional experts said. But with Democrats and Republicans facing extremely tight presidential and congressional campaigns, lawmakers from both parties are embracing the commission's recommendations to bolster their anti-terrorism credentials.

"Under normal circumstances, these kinds of reforms would not pass. This year is different," said Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research.

Staff Writer Gail Repsher Emery spoke with Ornstein and other Washington experts to get their take on these activities. Read her front-page story for a rundown of new legislation and what these proposals mean for government


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