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The race to be the top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee next year is getting crowded, with at least six lawmakers competing for the spot.
Reps. Dan Crenshaw (Texas) and Mark Green (Tenn.) have joined the pursuit, following Michael Guest (Miss.), Clay Higgins (La.), Dan Bishop (N.C.) and Scott Perry(Pa.), who all expressed interest earlier this year.
The current top Republican on the panel, John Katko (N.Y.), isn’t running for reelection. The GOP Steering Committee will determine the next ranking member or chair, depending on whether Republicans wrest control of the House from Democrats.
The committee is poised to play an especially high-profile role in the next Congress if Republicans win the majority and conduct aggressive oversight of the Biden administration’s border security policies.
Guest, Higgins and Bishop currently sit on the committee. Crenshaw, Green, and Perry previously served on it.
Green, who confirmed in a text message that he was seeking the panel’s top Republican post, has spoken with members of leadership and the Steering Committee about the job, according to a person close to the lawmaker who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He’s a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and left the homeland panel last year to join the Armed Services Committee. The person close to Green said he has pitched the diversity of his professional background as an asset, including his military service. He served as a surgeon on the mission that captured former Iraq President Saddam Hussein in 2003.
Green was the sponsor of legislation the House passed in 2019 that would have directed the Department of Homeland Security to develop guidance for producing and sharing information related to terrorist threats.
Green’s other legislative efforts include a push to transfer care and custody responsibilities for unaccompanied children crossing the border from the Office of Refugee Resettlement within the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Homeland Security (H.R. 4201). In 2020, he also introduced a measure to direct the the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to identify vulnerabilities in federal information systems.
Crenshaw sat on the Homeland Security Committee his first term in Congress, but left after being named to the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2021. Crenshaw also has military experience as a former Navy SEAL.
His chief of staff, Justin Discigil, confirmed that Crenshaw is pursuing the top Republican slot on the homeland panel but stressed that his main focus is supporting GOP candidates to try to take control of the House.
“We can start talking about committee gavels after we win the majority in November,” Discigil said.
Crenshaw was the top Republican on the committee’s oversight panel during his first term in office. He’s the only border-state Republican in the mix to lead the Homeland Security Committee so far, and has cybersecurity experience from his military service.
If Republicans take the House, the Homeland Security Committee is likely to play a leading role in investigating the Biden administration, particularly its US-Mexico border policy and how the Department of Homeland Security is handling historically high levels of crossings.
Republicans on the committee already attacked President Joe Biden’s border policies. Higgins and Perry cosponsored a resolution (H.Res 582) to impeach Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
Guest, Bishop, Crenshaw, and Green all signed an April letter to Mayorkas, accusing him of working to “dismantle the security of our nation’s southern border,” which has “willingly endangered American citizens and undermined the rule of law.” The letter was also signed by top GOP House leaders including Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
“Your failure to secure the border and enforce the laws passed by Congress raises grave questions about your suitability for office,” the lawmakers wrote.
At least one contender, Bishop, is pitching himself as a chair who would investigate the department aggressively, including playing a role in a potential impeachment of Mayorkas.
“They’ve been unprecedented,” Bishop said of the actions of Mayorkas and his DHS staff. “The use of oversight needs to be unprecedented as well.”
Advocates for overhauling the Department of Homeland Security hope the panel’s next top Republican is committed to tackling wonkier departmental issues that have vexed lawmakers for years. DHS, created in the wake of Sept. 11, is huge and often viewed as disjointed — with missions as diverse as immigrant processing, wildfire response, and cybersecurity. Committee leaders on both sides of the aisle have pushed legislation to refine the department but failed to get major bills across the finish line.
“Although there will be the temptation to launch endless investigations, there is clearly a lot that House Homeland can do under Republican leadership that could be very useful for the department and for the country,” said Tom Warrick, a former DHS official who’s now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. “If it’s all going to be about trying to play gotcha, then that would be a missed opportunity of historic proportions.”
In addition to rethinking the department’s structure and mission, lawmakers could find common ground on border security, cybersecurity, and domestic terrorism matters if committee leadership adopts a bipartisan approach, Warrick said.
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