By Devlin Barrett
Rep. King Sees Boost
Wall Street Journal
November 6, 2010
Rep. Peter King of Long Island is two months away from becoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, but he already has designs on how he wants to expand the power and scope of the job.
The Republican Party won majority control of the House in this week's election, and as a result Mr. King will almost certainly become the committee's chairman, a position he held briefly four years ago. As the lone Republican New Yorker in Congress with any significant seniority, he is also the only member of the state delegation whose influence will significantly increase as a result of the GOP takeover.
For two years, Mr. King has been a loud and blunt critic of the Obama administration's terrorism policies, calling them misguided attempts to appease liberal interest groups.
He has also tangled repeatedly with John Brennan, the president's top counterterrorism adviser.
Recently, though, the relationship has thawed, with Mr. King praising the administration last weekend for what he said were the right moves in response to mail bombs sent to the U.S. from Yemen. Mr. King said the case is a top priority and that he plans to work to tighten security measures for air cargo.
Also, since his party trounced Democrats at the polls Tuesday, Mr. King has had cordial phone conversations with President Barack Obama and others in the administration.
They already agree on one thing: the need to shift more congressional oversight of the sprawling Department of Homeland Security to the committee Mr. King will soon control.
"Right now, it's spread out over something like 108 subcommittees, and that eats up a lot of time for everyone involved,'' the lawmaker said in an interview.
It's an old complaint, and one that has frustrated both Republican and Democratic administrations. Efforts to streamline the process have failed in the past even with the support of members of the 9/11 Commission, because many lawmakers resist losing jurisdiction.
If Mr. King's effort were successful, it would make him a more powerful figure on Capitol Hill than his predecessors in the job.
Much, though, depends on whether the leader of the House Republicans, Rep. John Boehner of Ohio, is willing to push through such changes.
"He's told me he wants it,'' said Mr. King. "He's certainly supportive in concept and spirit.''
Mr. King said he was not looking for a confrontation with the Democratic administration, but wasn't going to shy away from one either.
He faulted the Democrats for not focusing on terrorism—including the mass shooting a year ago at Fort Hood and whether terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay should be brought to the U.S.—during four years of controlling the committee.
Last year, the administration announced plans to bring self-declared terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four accused henchmen to New York City to face trial for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Mr. Obama was forced to halt that effort in the face of strident opposition in Congress from Mr. King and others.
If the White House tries to revive such plans, Mr. King said, he would fight it through his committee, including holding public hearings on the matter.