Thursday, October 11, 2007

Claire McCaskill & Jim Webb advance legislation to rein in "contractors"

For more than two years I have been screaming for a reprise of the Truman Committee.

Before Claire McCaskill announced her Senate bid, I was encouraging her to run for the Class I seat that Truman once held, and touting her background as our state auditor and as a tough prosecutor as reasons she should run and reasons we should vote for her, because the Iraq fiasco needed a good auditing, in the spirit of Harry Truman.

During her campaign, she seized on my the idea of a modern day Truman Committee to investigate waste, fraud and corruption in the reconstruction of Iraq. During a speech in Harry S Truman’s hometown of Independence last year, she spoke admiringly of the former President and his diligence in reining in war profiteers. "He was fearless. He uncovered enormous undeserved profits. I believe we need a new Truman Committee. I will fight for such a committee.”

Less than a year after she was elected, and a mere nine months after taking her seat, she is very close to bringing the notion to fruition. The Senate recently agreed to a plan from Senators McCaskill and Webb to get a handle on the Pentagon’s scattershot method of awarding private contracts for work in Iraq. It was added to the Defense Authorization Bill for 2008.

The legislation sponsored by McCaskill and Webb, if it survives and is signed into law, will give oversight authority over private defense contracts to an independent, bipartisan commission. To the incoming Democratic freshmen, plus Bernie Sanders, the McCaskill-Webb amendment is symbolic of their pledge to restore integrity and accountability – the platform on which they stood for election.

The two freshmen senators wanted their bill on the FY 2008 DAB, and were told to take a number. Some 500 amendments were in the air, most by far more senior members of the chamber than the two of them, Webb’s tenure as Secretary of the Navy notwithstanding.. He has an insiders knowledge of just exactly how things don’t work.

Then Blackwater went on a killing spree in Nisoor square on September 16th and suddenly there were more than a couple of senators and a handful of bloggers paying attention to the issue of contractor corruption and criminal conduct, and the Webb-McCaskill amendment gained some traction. “We see stories of the corruption of these defense contractors and people are outraged by it.” said freshman Sen. Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.

Now – I am all for giving the Senator the benefit of the doubt for her good intentions. But this in no way gets her a pass on the votes she has cast that disappointed us bitterly. She could advance ‘round the bend of redemption quite convincingly if she just stood up and stopped voting to fund the occupation of Iraq.

I thought we had made pretty damned clear during the campaign just exactly why we were working so freakin’ hard to elect her – the war in Iraq, and bringing it to an end were number one. Civil liberties and the restoration of Habeas Corpus and the Fourth Amendment were a real damned close second. Yet she voted for the supplemental last spring, and she stabbed the Fourth Amendment in the back in a rush to get her vacation started.

On both of those counts, Claire has been a crushing disappointment, and a deserved recipient of blogger ire. She has a ways to go to restore our faith.

Claire, you represent Missouri. Show us. We demand as much and will accept no less.

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