House homeland security panel to cover cybersecurity

House homeland security panel to cover cybersecurity

The House Rules Committee referred a cybersecurity bill to the reorganized Homeland Security Committee, in a move that partly straightened some tangled lines of authority in the lower chamber. The Rules Committee's decision confirmed the Homeland Security Committee's authority over cybersecurity issues, which congressional sources said had been left partly unclear in the rule that established the new committee.

Reps. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) introduced HR 285 in the new 109th Congress, in an effort to create the position of assistant secretary for cybersecurity in the Homeland Security Department.

The House passed similar legislation in the 108th Congress, but the measure did not clear a House-Senate conference committee that framed legislation reorganizing the intelligence community.

Three committees have authority over different aspects of cybersecurity, congressional sources said. The homeland security panel oversees cybersecurity issues related to DHS, while the Energy and Commerce Committee has jurisdiction over the Federal Trade Commission's activity in the area and the Government Reform Committee supervises other federal cybersecurity issues.

One issue hanging over the fate of the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2005 is that the homeland security panel no longer has a cybersecurity subcommittee, congressional sources said. It's not clear which of the Homeland Security Committee's subcommittees will handle the cybersecurity bill.

House Republican leaders have chosen Rep. Christopher Cox of California to be the House Homeland Security Committee's chairman. The Democratic leadership has tapped Rep. Bennie G. Thompson to be ranking member of the committee.

Cox was chairman of the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, the 108th Congress' larger and less powerful version of the current panel. Thompson formerly was chairman of the select committee's Emergency Preparedness and Response Subcommittee.

Each party's leaders are scheduled to appoint additional members to the reorganized homeland security committee over the next few weeks. The leaders also will appoint the chairmen and ranking members of the panel's subcommittees.

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