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Saturday, Nov. 08, 2003 at 12:26 AM
The White House and the House Republicans took out a section of a bill that would have imposed stiff penalties for war profiteering. With one-party rule in Washington, there will be no oversight (and no penalties) if anyone steals any (or all) of the billion dollars President George Bush wants to spend on the US - Iraq War
Republicans Strip 'No War Profiteering' Section from
Billion Iraq Bill
The Hill (Washington DC)
November 5, 2003, Summary: This article should be the top of the news on TV and newspapers all over the
world. The White House and the House Republicans took out a section of a bill that would have imposed stiff penalties for war profiteering. With one-party rule in Washington, there will be no oversight (and no
penalties) if anyone steals any (or all) of the billion dollars President George Bush wants to spend on the US - Iraq War ... Rage erupts over profiteering clause Iraq supplemental justified, says GOP
A decision by the House Republicans to strip the Iraq supplemental bill of an anti-profiteering provision has outraged the Democrats. Some Democrats have accused the White House of pulling the strings on the effort to nix the language.
“The White House and House GOP leadership didn’t want [the provision] in there,” charged Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), an author of the language.The provision — included during the Senate
Appropriations Committee markup with unanimous support but removed in conference — would have subjected those who deliberately defrauded the United States or Iraq to jail terms of up to 20 years and costly fines.Leahy said that, privately, some Republicans told him they though it was a good provision.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), another author of the profiteering provision, called it “shocking” that it was taken out. “Why?” Feinstein asked. “It was a good amendment. ”A Senate Democratic aide said, “Several House Republican conferees were clearly empathetic, but they had to look to a higher authority. That higher authority was the White House, which had sent the marching order to strip this from the bill.”
Another Democratic aide said that “the White House got to House Republicans.” The aide pointed to Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner’s (R-Wis.)
support for the provision — the lawmaker chairs the authorizing committee but was not a member of the conference — and the unwillingness of House Republicans to compromise on the language as evidence that the top White House staff may have given the marching orders.Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), at a Monday hearing of the Democratic Policy Committee, claimed that it does not look as if the White House wanted any oversight on reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
During an Oct. 29 meeting of the conference committee, Leahy advocated a “very, very high standard” for its use, saying it should be applied only in the most egregious cases.
He said the language sends the message not to “rip off Uncle Sam.” Leahy added that he believes with the
amount of money flowing into Iraq, “there will be a lot of greedy fingers.”
Leahy indicated that he was willing to compromise on the provision. He agreed to include a firm sunset provision advocated by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska). Stevens, Democratic aides said, was very supportive of the provision throughout the conference committee process.
However, in conference, House Republicans spurned any compromises. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) said he was “uneasy” about adding this kind of criminal law without input from the White House and the Department of Justice.
House Appropriations Committee spokesman John Scofield said other reasons for rejecting the provision included that it would have also applied to international assistance and that it did not define what constitutes “excessive profiteering.”
Leahy this week introduced stand-alone legislation targeting war profiteering. However, if it passed, it would go into effect later than the supplemental and would not cover the upcoming time period, thus lessening its effectiveness. Leahy said yesterday it would be “a long road” before the stand-alone legislation is completed. Leahy’s measure would slap penalties on those who “materially [overvalue] any good or service with the specific intent to excessively profit from the war, military action, or relief or reconstruction activities in Iraq.”
At a Democratic Policy Committee hearing, Melanie Sloan, executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, testified that “Halliburton [formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney] has charged an average price of .65 a gallon of gasoline imported into Iraq from Kuwait, despite experts’ conclusions that the total price should be less than a gallon.”
Sloan added that Iraq’s state oil company is importing “the exact same gas” for 97 cents. She concluded that between 6 million and 9 million of the 0 million the administration has requested for the importation of petroleum products could be wasted “if Halliburton’s pricing practices are not stopped.” Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.), who chaired the hearing, said, “Is there anything more ironic than getting ripped off on the price of oil imports in Iraq, of all places?”
Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said at the hearing that following passage of the Iraq supplemental bill there would be a “festive atmosphere on K Street.” Durbin said the Iraq spending bill opens the door for “fat and sloppy good-old-boy contracts.” The lawmaker said that those seeking greater transparency were unable to examine many contracts because they are classified. Asserting that this has nothing to do with security, Durbin added, “This administration classifies anything that might be embarrassing.”
While it was House Republicans who wanted the profiteering provision stripped out in conference, Durbin pointed out that Senate Republicans, who had supported the provision in committee and on the floor,
“did not stand up and fight” for the language.
Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), in an interview with The Hill, defended Senate conferees. “If the House says no, we can’t do anything about it. We can’t dump the whole bill just because [a provision on profiteering] isn’t included.” Domenici added that some thought the amendment was written in a “political way.” Other attempts by Congress to require more accountability for spending the money, especially the reconstruction funds, were for the most part watered down or removed.The White House staff did not respond to a request for comment.
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