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Rep. King to relinquish chair, Rep. Thompson queries three potential replacements

Rep. Peter King

After current House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said he wouldn’t retain his committee leadership come January, the committee’s ranking member, Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS), reminded three potential  replacements the committee needs more jurisdictional control.

On Nov. 15, King told Long Island Newsday that he would have to give up his chairmanship in the next session of Congress because of his party’s term limit rules. King said he has already overstayed the rule's six-year limit. He has been committee chairman for seven years, since September 2005.

King, who was re-elected earlier this month by a large margin in his home district on Long Island, also told the newspaper he will remain on the committee as chairman of the terrorism subcommittee and again be appointed as a member of the House Intelligence Committee.

King has been a controversial leader of the committee. He convened a series of hearings in 2011 to look at radicalization in U.S. Muslim communities that drew heavy criticism from Muslim leaders and a few fellow congressmen. King said he was trying to open a more honest dialogue on the growing problem of homegrown Islamist terrorism. He has also aggressively worked to expose emerging terror groups like Al Qaeda on the Arabian Peninsula, Ansar Al Sharia, Al Shabaab, and Boko Haram.

In the hours after King’s announcement, Thompson had some advice for King’s possible replacements. In a Nov. 15 letter to Homeland Security subcommittee chairs Reps. Mike Rogers (R-AL), Candice Miller (R-MI), and Michael McCaul (R-TX), Thompson said committee jurisdiction and legislation should take priority in the next session of congress.

Thompson said Rogers, Miller and McCaul “are seen as possible replacements as the Committee on Homeland Security Chair for the 113th Congress.” Thompson, who was handily re-elected, has been ranking member of the committee since 2011 and will continue in that role in the upcoming 113th session.

The consolidation of homeland security jurisdiction in Congress, he said, must remain a top priority – and will require bipartisan coordination.  He called the performance of the committee in the 112th congress “lackluster,” saying it failed to get a major piece of legislation considered on the House floor.

The weeks before and after the upcoming presidential inauguration are likely to bring many changes to Department of Homeland Security’s agencies and its congressional oversight committees.

Washington insiders said King could be a candidate for Homeland Security Secretary, as could Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, if current secretary Janet Napolitano is moved out of her position. Napolitano’s name has been floated to replace attorney general Eric Holder should he leave his position. He has indicated that he may do so.  

Big changes are also in store for the Senate Homeland Security Committee, as current chairman Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) is retiring in January. The committee’s ranking member Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) will also leave the committee.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Morton is also likely to move on in the coming weeks, said insiders. Customs and acting Border Protection commissioner David Aguilar could be replaced with an appointee. Texas Democrat Rep. Silvestre Reyes’ name has come up as a possible replacement for Aguilar. Reyes is set to leave Congress in January, although his name has come up in a House Ethics Committee inquiry into campaign contributions.

 
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