Burns loss has caucus looking for new co-chair
Yesterday’s election concession by Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) will leave the E-911 Caucus with a void that will begin to be addressed as early as next week, according to Beltway sources.
Burns, whose narrow loss to Democratic challenger Jon Tester will end his 18-year tenure in the Senate, has been the Republican Senate co-chair of the E-911 Caucus, which will lack a Republican senator. The caucus’ Democratic Senate co-chair is Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), while the House co-chairs are Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and John Shimkus (R-Ill.).
While the caucus can function without a Republican Senate co-chair, the remaining co-chairs would prefer a bicameral, bipartisan structure, said Gregory Rohde, executive director of the E-911 Institute, which supports the E-911 Caucus.
“It’s really up to the caucus co-chairs to determine who they want to work with … it would be up to Sen. Clinton, primarily, to determine who she’d want as a colleague,” Rohde said. “I expect to have conversations with her next week.”
One of Burns’ most notable achievements was spearheading the last-minute passage of the Enhance 911 Act before Congress adjourned in December 2004. The measure authorized $1.25 billion for 911 system upgrades over a five-year period, although no money has been appropriated to date.
Burns’ defeat cost the 911 community “a good friend” on Capitol Hill, said Patrick Halley, governmental affairs director for the National Emergency Number Association (NENA).
“We lost probably our strongest ally in the Senate in the Republic Party on 911 issues, so we’re disappointed,” Halley said. “Thanks to Sen. Burns, the issue is alive and well in the Congress. He’s done an amazing job educating and advocating other members on the issue. Luckily for 911, the issue lives on, which is a tribute to his legacy.”