House Passes Homeland Security Legislation on Chemical Facility Security, Border Security and Emergency Communications

Media Contact: April Ward (202) 226-8417

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed H.R. 4007, H.R. 4263, H.R. 4289 and H.R. 3488 – bipartisan legislation to enhance the security of chemical facilities and ports of entry and improve emergency communications.

Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX): “The ability of our first responders to communicate with each other and with the public during a terrorist attack or natural disaster is imperative. I am pleased the House passed H.R. 4263 and H.R. 4289 to ensure that our first responders are able to communicate with each other via interoperable communications systems and with the public via social media during times of crisis.

“The tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas last year killed 15 people and showed the potential for disaster at any one of our countries chemical facilities. With the passage of H.R. 4007, the House has taken steps toward authorizing and strengthening the CFATS program, which ensures these facilities are implementing security standards to protect against a terrorist attack. In addition, the passage of H.R. 3488 will help push our borders out to help deter and detect threats before they reach our shores by authorizing preclearance facilities and operations. I urge my colleagues in the Senate to also take up these vital homeland security measures.”

The House passed, by voice vote, H.R. 4007, the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) Program Authorization and Accountability Act of 2014, introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Meehan (R-PA). The legislation codifies and strengthens the Department’s CFATS program, which issues and enforces security standards for high-risk chemical facilities.

Subcommittee Chairman Meehan on H.R. 4007: “This bipartisan bill is simple. It makes Americans safer by improving security standards at thousands of chemical facilities across our nation. The explosion in West, Texas last year demonstrated how catastrophic an attack on one of these facilities would be. It is vitally important that we ensure our first responders have adequate knowledge of where these facilities are located. This bill does that. It is supported by Republicans, Democrats and the Secretary of Homeland Security. It’s an example of bipartisanship all too rare in Washington today. I’m grateful to Rep. Gene Green, Ranking Member Thompson, and Chairman McCaul for their hard work and team effort to support this commonsense legislation.”

The House passed, by a vote of 375-19, H.R. 4263, the Social Media Working Group Act of 2014, which was introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Susan W. Brooks (R-IN). The legislation authorizes the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a social media working group.

The House also passed, by a vote of 393-0, H.R. 4289, the Department of Homeland Security Interoperable Communications Act, which was introduced by Subcommittee Ranking Member Donald Payne (D-NJ). The legislation addresses the recommendations of a November 2012 DHS Office of Inspector General report, which found that the Department lacks an effective governance structure to ensure interoperable communications among its components.

Subcommittee Chairman Brooks on H.R. 4263: “Social media has dramatically changed the way we communicate with each other and using it the right way can save lives when disaster strikes. This bill enhances the Department of Homeland Security's Virtual Social Media Working Group and gives private sector innovators new opportunities to share their expertise and ideas. This is the product of more than a year of witness testimony, background research and committee outreach indicating a need for greater collaboration between the hi-tech industry, non-profit organizations and federal, state and local emergency response providers. This bipartisan legislation requires the working group to file a yearly report with Congress demonstrating new strategies for using cutting edge tools to keep people safe.”

The House also approved, by voice vote, H.R. 3488, the Preclearance Authorization Act of 2014, which was introduced by Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Meehan (R-PA). The legislation establishes the conditions under which the Secretary of Homeland Security may establish preclearance facilities, conduct preclearance operations, and provide customs services outside the United States.

Subcommittee Chairman Meehan on H.R. 3488: “U.S. taxpayer dollars shouldn’t benefit foreign, state-owned airlines over domestic carriers. This bipartisan legislation will ensure that the Department of Homeland Security will consider American jobs before making decisions about future customs pre-clearance facilities. I’d like to especially thank Rep. Peter DeFazio and Subcommittee Chairman Candace Miller for their tireless dedication to the thousands of American jobs supported by our airline industry.”