House Committee on Homeland Security

Chair: Bennie Thompson

A

Grade for the 116th Congress*

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

14 Investigative Oversight Hearings

32 Policy/Legislative Hearings

84 Total Hearings

Last updated: March 27, 2021, 5:23 p.m.

Unlike its Senate counterpart, the committee is more narrowly focused on the Department of Homeland Security and its myriad agencies that were cobbled together into a new cabinet department after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. That reflects its slightly different history: the House committee was first formed as a nine-member, non-permanent committee to provide oversight over the development of the DHS. It was designated a standing committee in 2005. (The Senate committee was formed by adding DHS responsibilities to the existing Government Affairs Committee.) Besides oversight of DHS operations, the House committee’s jurisdiction includes immigration policy and border security, transportation and infrastructure security, emergency preparedness, cybersecurity, counterterrorism, the Secret Service, and election security. It is relatively small for a legislative House committee, with only 31 members. It has six subcommittees: transportation and maritime security; emergency preparedness, response and recovery; border security, facilitation and operations; cybersecurity, infrastructure protection and innovation; oversight, management and accountability; and intelligence and counterterrorism.

Over the years, the committee, consistent with its small membership, has maintained one of the lighter hearing schedules among legislative House committees. In five of the previous six Congresses, it averaged fewer than 90 hearings per Congress. The exception was the 112th Congress (2011-2012), when Republican Peter King of New York took over the gavel from Democrat Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and held 126 hearings. This included 87 policy and legislative hearings, far more than the committee’s norm.

Because of its different history, House Homeland Security does not have the same tradition of investigative oversight as the Senate version, where the Senate Government Affairs Committee already had its storied Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Nonetheless, the House committee is one of the more active in House investigative oversight, with as many as seven investigative hearings each in the 113th and 114th Congresses (2013-16) under Chair Michael McCaul (R, Tex.).

In the 116th Congress (2019-2020), with Rep. Thompson back in the chair, it held an unprecedented 14 investigative hearings, double that of any other Congress despite the pandemic-shortened schedule. In May of 2019 it turned a critical eye on the many top-level vacancies at DHS. In June in held three separate investigative hearings: examining the Transportation Security Administration's policies to prevent unlawful profiling; assessing readiness at the Federal Emergency Management Administration; and looking at President Trump's deployment of military personnel to the Mexican border. In July of 2019 it looked into DHS's increasing use of facial recognition technology and questioned the administration's efforts to help rebuild hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In September, it held a hearing into complaints that DHS wasn't providing sufficient oversight of border detention facilities. In October 2019 it questioned DHS's compliance with Freedom of Information Act requests, and held a hearing on its implementation of the 2018 TSA Modernization Act. In November it challenged the Trump administration's controversial "Remain in Mexico" policy on legal and humans rights grounds. In December, 2019, it highlighted shortcomings in the Coast Guard's processes for dealing with harassment, bullying and retaliation. In January of 2020 it faulted DHS efforts at preventing the deaths of children in custody. In July 2020 the committee held a hearing on whether the four big private contractors who run border detention facilities were doing enough to keep both detainees and employees safe from the coronavirus. And in September in looked into DHS's management of the various trusted travelers programs.


Chairs

111th Congress: Bennie Thompson (D-MS)

112th Congress: Peter King (R-NY)

113th Congress: Michael McCaul (R-TX)

114th Congress: Michael McCaul (R-TX)

115th Congress: Michael McCaul (R-TX)

116th Congress: Bennie Thompson (D-MS)


Current Congress

We are 100% of the way through the 116th Congress

House Committee on Homeland Security

14 Investigative Oversight Hearings; 100% historical maximum
32 Policy/Legislative Hearings; 46% historical maximum
84 Total Hearings; 83% historical maximum

Committee History

Number of Hearings
Committee Hearing Performance
Investigative/Oversight Policy/Legislative Total Hearings Score Grade
111th Congress 3 62 83 70% C-
112th Congress 4 87 126 100% A
113th Congress 7 57 91 77% C
114th Congress 7 48 89 71% C-
115th Congress 5 57 84 71% C-
116th Congress* 14 32 84 93% A
Historical average 6.7 57.2 92.8

* Adjustments have been applied so that committees' grades are not lowered by the constraints on hearings caused by Covid-19 [oversight-index.thelugarcenter.org/covid-19-statement]

Number of Hearings

--- Historical Average

Hearings held by the
House Committee on Homeland Security

Date Hearing Title Committee Category