By Daniel Fowler and Rob Margetta, CQ Homeland Security

Feb 10, 2009

During the 110th Congress, senior lawmakers such as Edward J. Markey, Nita M. Lowey and Jim Langevin were just a few of the high profile Democrats who served on the House Homeland Security Committee.

But the Northeastern trio won’t be debating chemical security legislation, FEMA grants, cybersecurity or any of their other favorite security issues during House Homeland hearings in the 111th Congress.

Langevin, D-R.I., returned to Armed Services after a two-year departure. Markey, D-Mass., Lowey, D-N.Y., and Washington’s Norm Dicks, who would have required waivers to continue sitting on Homeland Security, dropped it from their portfolios. A handful of other veteran Democrats also departed.

Their replacements? Mostly freshmen.

Many analysts say the committee faces an uphill battle when it comes to asserting its influence: How can it expect to attract and retain experienced representatives when they don’t actually have to be on it to influence homeland policy?

Because of Congress’ fragmented oversight of the Department of Homeland Security, at least 85 committees and subcommittees have jurisdiction over some piece of DHS.

“There’s more than one way to skin the homeland security cat,” said L. Vance Taylor, a principal at the consulting firm Catalyst Partners. “There are so many committees with jurisdiction over the department that [House Homeland Security’s] influence is diluted in the process. If the jurisdiction were more streamlined, you would see much more in the way of concentrated efforts by people to get on the committee.”

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