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Bessent: New York will miss Peter King's clout on homeland security panel

Rep. Peter King.

Rep. Peter King. Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

The New York region will lose some of its juice in Congress when Rep. Peter King’s tenure as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee ends in December.

The Republican Party’s term limit for committee chairs is a valuable safeguard against sclerotic leadership that allows fresh, creative thinking to emerge. King, of Seaford, has been the committee’s top Republican since 2005. So he has already overstayed the six-year limit.

But New York City has long been the bull's-eye in the target for terrorists. And this changing of the guard comes just when the region needs billions of dollars from Washington to rebuild in the wake of superstorm Sandy.

Known for his aggressive rhetoric on Islamic terrorism, King sometimes spread suspicion with too broad a brush. But the muscle that comes with the chairman’s job will be missed.

King kept the committee focused on international terrorism, which is a more immediate and life-threatening concern for New Yorkers than it is for residents of other parts of the country. He worked with New York’s congressional Democrats to secure billions of dollars to care for and compensate first-responders and others who got sick after breathing toxic fumes at Ground Zero.

He pushed his colleagues in Congress to distribute more homeland security money based on a region’s risk of attack rather than pork barrel politics, a plus for New York. And he won funding for the Securing the Cities initiative, which pays to place radiation detection devices around New York and other cities.

King told Newsday he will remain on the committee and serve as chairman of its terrorism subcommittee. King said he asked to keep his chairmanship of the full Homeland Security Committee another term, but was told no by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).

House Republicans should chose King’s successor wisely. The nation needs a chairman who shares King’s zeal, and this region needs one with his appreciation for the threat New Yorkers live with every day.