House Legislation Addresses Federal Panel That Decided on Dubai Ports Deal

Legislation passed Wednesday would make it easier for Congress to watch over the federal panel criticized for deciding that a Dubai-owned company could manage some U.S. ports.

The DP World deal fell apart this year after an uproar over whether the Bush administration ignored national security concerns in signing off on the transaction.

Lawmakers wrote legislation that adds teeth and accountability to the panel that reviews and investigates investments that involve foreign governments or have an impact on critical U.S. infrastructure. The Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States includes representatives from several different agencies.

The measure updates the committee "for a post-9/11 world where national security and homeland security need to be considered much more strongly," said Rep. Deborah Pryce, R-Ohio.

The Senate approved its version by voice vote; the House's passed on a 424-0 vote. The Senate and House must now work out the differences.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., said the Senate bill strengthens the review process by "explicitly establishing a system of congressional notification that had previously been lacking."

The House bill establishes the committee in statute and adds the secretaries of Homeland Security and Commerce as vice chairmen, under the treasury secretary. The signatures of all three are needed for an investigation to be considered final.

The measure reaffirms that 45-day investigations must be carried out for investments involving companies controlled by foreign governments. Lawmakers complained that they were not adequately briefed on the proposed Dubai ports deal.

The House legislation would require the panel to report to appropriate congressional committees at the end of a review and hold mandatory briefings after all investigations.

The review committee was created as part of a 1988 law that gives the president authority to suspend foreign mergers and transactions for national security reasons.