House Votes 225 to 193 to Reward Iraq Contracting Abuse
On March 17, the House of Representatives approved a $92 billion emergency spending bill [H.R. 4939] to fund ongoing military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as hurricane recovery efforts in the Gulf Coast region. After debating dozens of amendments, the House approved the war and hurricane measure on a vote of 348 to 71.
While House lawmakers felt obligated to vote for hurricane relief and funding to support the nearly 189,000 troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, many House members were clearly unhappy with how the Pentagon and the Bush Administration have been managing these conflicts. Lawmakers’ frustrations came out during the debate on amendments to the bill.
For example, Rep. Waxman of California offered an amendment to address the rampant waste, fraud and abuse that auditors have identified in Pentagon contracts in Iraq. Rep. Waxman is the Ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee and has spearheaded efforts to uncover wasteful government contracts. Speaking in support of his amendment, Rep. Waxman said, “The largest contractor operating in Iraq is Halliburton.... Federal auditors have found Halliburton’s unreasonable and unsupported bills [to the Pentagon] exceed $1 billion. Yet over and over again, this administration has ignored its own auditors.”
Rep. Waxman went on to describe Halliburton’s contracting irregularities, including $100 bags of laundry, $45 cases of soda, and charges for meals the company never served to the troops. His amendment would simply prohibit the Pentagon from awarding new contracts to any company that has overcharged the government by $100 million or more in Iraq.
Despite the overwhelming auditor evidence against Halliburton and other Pentagon contractors, the House rejected the Waxman amendment on a vote of 193 to 225. Rep. Levin voted in support of the amendment.
On a more positive note, the war and hurricane funding bill contained a provision to bar Dubai Ports World, a company owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates, from taking over operations at six U.S. ports. An amendment by Rep. Gilchrest of Maryland to remove the port provision from the bill was overwhelmingly defeated.
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