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The Fightin’ 110th Congress

Senate Judiciary Committee from the 109th Congress
Senate Judiciary Committee in the 109th Congress, including incoming chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont). (photo credit — Newsday)

Just a few days ago, incoming chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), spoke at his alma mater for the Georgetown Law Forum. (Video available at C-SPAN and text here.)

In his prepared remarks, Senator Leahy tackled the issue of war profiteering and the lack of oversight. The six-term senator emphasized a point that many in the pro-oversight community have stressed for years. Corner-cutting war profiteers undermine U.S. military efforts. (By definition, that would back-up then-Senator Harry S. Truman's (D-Missouri) proclamation that war profiteering was "treason.")

It is hard to win a battle for the hearts and minds of Iraqis who still are without basic services, even as they watch billions of dollars being siphoned off by unsupervised contractors.  Too much of that money is unaccounted for, and many of the facilities and services it was supposed to provide are still nonexistent.  And now this week we read about plans to spend hundreds of millions more to create jobs in Iraq.  Weren’t we supposed to be doing that with all those billions of other taxpayers’ dollars? 

Senator Leahy added a little bit of humor in asking the money question.

At the risk of incurring another of Vice President Cheney’s special season’s “greetings,” I ask:  Where did all the money go? [link added]

Certainly, he is referring to the missing $8.8 billion that the Coalition Provisional Authority says went "missing" in Iraq. I believe CPA Administrator Paul Bremer's exact words were "Oopsie!" or something to that effect…

He continued, noting the utter refusal of this administration, and the willful blindness by the 109th Congress that we are all too familiar with.

Up to now, the committees of Congress have looked the other way, and the Administration has fought tooth and nail against any accountability for this massive wastefulness.  We even had to fight to preserve the one watchdog that Congress has sent to Iraq: the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.  Two months ago, a rider was slipped into the Defense Authorization Bill that pulled the plug on the inspector general’s work.  I am pleased that the election results helped us reverse that last week — for now.

According to the New York Times, the legislation to can Stuart W. Bowen Jr. originated with 2008 presidential hopeful, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California). Bowen is "likely to remain." (A week or two ago, there was some discussion as to Bowen's status.)

Senator Leahy gave us some idea what his plans are in regards to the war profiteers.

The Judiciary Committee will be asking the Justice Department why it has slowed and obstructed the civil suits against contractors brought by whistleblowers, under the False Claims Act.  And because prosecuting criminal cases against war profiteering is difficult under current law and has to overcome jurisdictional legal defenses, we also will renew our efforts to enact the War Profiteering Prevention Act.  I have repeatedly offered this bill, and it has passed the Senate, only to die in a Republican-controlled conference committee.

In all honesty, I am as excited for Inauguration Day 2007 as I was for Christmas X-Mas as a child.

"On the first day of the 110th Congress, Nancy Pelosi gave to me…" (That would make culture warrior, Bill O'Reilly's head explode.)

Related When speaking of war profiteers, it is difficult not to mention Truman. As we head into a Democratic Congress from a "Do Nothing" Congress (worse than the 1948 Congress that originally earned the moniker from Truman himself), I wanted to highlight a very telling quote on the state of the GOP then, and how it relates to now.

"The Republican Party, as I said a while ago, favors the privileged few and not the common everyday man. Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege; and they have completely proved it in the 80th Congress. They proved it by the things they did to the people, and not for them. They proved it by the things they failed to do."
President Harry S. Truman
Acceptance Speech of the Democratic Nomination in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
July 15, 1948

[Matt Ortega writes at SOTUblog]

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