Republican Senate may pass Homeland Security Department bill
Mid-term election results that gave the Republicans at least 51 seats in the U.S. Senate and that increased their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives are seen as paving the way for passage of the bill that would create a Department of Homeland Security in the form sought by President Bush.
Alan Caldwell, director of government relations for the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Fairfax, Va., said that federal support for the fire service as first responders always has been bi-partisan, especially in the Senate. Whether Republicans or Democrats have been in the majority, he said that the appropriations committee chairmen and ranking members had been supportive.
“There’s reason to believe that the Homeland Security Department is more probable now. The IAFC certainly is on the record, as is America’s fire service, as supporting it. I would think that the chances for passage now would improve,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said that 1.1 million firefighters serve in 26,350 fire departments nationwide, with volunteers making up 75 percent.
“They provide fire protection, fire suppression, education, hazardous materials response, technical rescue and emergency medical service,” Caldwell said.
“At IAFC, we assist fire chiefs in their business of saving lives and property of citizens. There seems to be unanimity that federal help is necessary. Becomes a matter of how much and when. There are many ways to go about it, including support of the fire service through grants,” he said.
Caldwell said that the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, whether chaired by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) or Sen. Fritz Hollings (D-S.C.), has been responsive to fire service needs.
“We experienced a change in the Senate when it went from Republican to Democratic control 18 months ago, and now it will change back. There might be a little shading along the way as to how we’re going to do something, but there is overall support for the fire service,” Caldwell said.
“The key players in the Senate are well known to us,” he said.