By LIZ RUSKIN
June 15, 2005
"We would more than gladly be excited about assuming that chairmanship," his spokesman, Grant Thompson, said.
The permanent committee, born just this year, oversees the far-reaching Homeland Security Department and its budget of about $50 billion.
Young is the most senior Republican on the panel, which would normally put him at the front of the line for its top seat.
At the moment, though, Young is focused on completing the six-year national highway bill, Thompson said.
Young's assumption of the homeland security gavel would have a kind of if-you-can't-beat-'em logic.
Young has fought against concentrating too much power in the Homeland Security Department, created from 22 agencies and programs in response to the terrorism attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Young tried to keep the Coast Guard from being transferred to the new department, a battle he lost.
He also insisted on keeping the committee he chairs, House Transportation and Infrastructure, in charge of Coast Guard oversight, instead of consolidating all the oversight duties in the Homeland Security Committee. Young largely won the jurisdiction fight. His critics complained that he was guarding his turf, but Young said his committee had years of expertise that he didn't want to waste.
Young has cautioned that too much security will impinge on civil rights, slow transportation and hurt American commerce.
"If they impose security that's not realistic and does not work and impedes commerce, then in fact the bad guys have won," he said in an interview earlier this year with the trade journal Traffic World.
James Carafano, a homeland security expert at the Heritage Foundation and an advocate of a strong Homeland Security Committee, says Young hasn't been helpful.
"Very frankly, he worked to undercut the jurisdiction of the committee," Carafano said, although he also said that Young's knowledge of the nation's critical infrastructure is an asset to the panel.
The danger in the homeland security arena, Carafano said, is that Congress may treat the substantial sums intended for a national security system as an opportunity to steer money to their home districts.
"This is national security. This isn't horse-trading and pork-barreling," Carafano said. "The chairman has got to be someone who is scrupulously bipartisan and a strong fiscal conservative. ... If that's Don Young, then great."
Young's chief rival for the post appears to be Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y. Like Young, King is a member of the Homeland Security Committee. King is also chairman of the panel's Subcommittee on Emergency Preparedness, Science and Technology.
A steering committee made up of Republican House members selects the committee chairmen. The Republicans have imposed a six-year term limit on those posts.
Young, 72, is in his fifth year as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. His opus, the national highway bill, will provide billions of dollars for the nation's freeways, bus systems, trails and bridges.
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