House set to create new homeland oversight panel

The Republican leadership of the House plans to form a select committee to oversee the new Homeland Security Department, a spokesman for minority whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said today.

With IT and data-gathering initiatives among the early priorities at the new department, some members of this committee will no doubt be watching systems development at Homeland Security closely.

The speaker, Sen. Dennis J. Hastert (R-Ill.) and his fellow Republican leaders will lay out the plan for the select committee during a meeting of the House Republican Conference this evening and bring the proposal to a vote on the floor tomorrow as part of a package of House rules changes, spokesman David James said.

Another source in the House Republican leadership said panel membership would be determined by Hastert and would likely include committee leaders whose areas of jurisdiction will be affected by the implementation of HR 5005, the Homeland Security Act.

Creation of the panel was foreshadowed by a November vote in the Republican Conference, when a nonbinding resolution offered by Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) to form a committee for homeland security oversight was adopted unanimously, a Weldon spokesman said.

In the Senate, a spokeswoman for the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee said her panel likely would hold hearings soon on nominations for the new department. She added that the committee likely will play a large role in overseeing the department but that other committees will also take part.

The House created a select committee to consider HR 5005, but that panel has been eliminated.

The formation of the new department also calls for potential changes in Congress' array of appropriations committees. Those plans have not advanced as quickly as plans for authorization committee changes, according to appropriations staff members.

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