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Public Statements

Blue Dog Coalition 1/30/07

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


BLUE DOG COALITION

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Mr. CHANDLER. Mr. Speaker, I am happy to be here this afternoon to join the gentleman from Arkansas (Mr. Ross) to talk a little bit about what is obviously a very, very important subject to the American people, the subject of accountability.

Now, Mr. Ross talked a little bit about the national debt. He had a sign up which, as he said, Blue Dog offices all over the Capitol have up, showing what the national debt of this country is, and the fact that each and every American citizen owes over $29,000 just to pay off the national debt.

Now, I don't usually, or very often, come down here to join Mr. Ross in what I do think is a worthy goal, and that is educating the American people on our financial situation in this country. But I could not resist today. Being a former State auditor in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I am a little bit familiar with the issue of accountability. And you talk about this debt, the fact that it is as large as it is, the fact that our people owe, each and every one of them, over $29,000 to pay it off, well, your next question is well, what are we going to do about it? What are we going to do about this debt?

Well, one of the very first things that we can do about this debt is demand accountability in the spending. And one of the glaring examples that we have got is the lack of oversight, the lack of accountability in the spending on the war in Iraq. The numbers are huge; almost $280 million a day is what we are spending in Iraq.

Now, the Blue Dogs have made a decision to have a resolution which will show our interest in making sure that this war and the government of this country is accountable for the taxpayer dollars spent in this war. What we have done is, as Mr. Ross laid out, proposed a resolution that is called the Operation Iraqi Freedom Cost Accountability Resolution. And the resolution focused on several crucial points in demanding fiscal responsibility in Iraq.

The main points, the most crucial, I think, are, one, a call for transparency on how Iraq war funds are spent. I think another important point is the need to fund the Iraq war through normal appropriations, through that process, rather than through emergency supplemental. The third point that I believe is crucial, and one that I want to touch on a little bit today, is the creation of the Truman committee to investigate the awarding of contracts.

Now, what we want to do, the Blue Dogs, what we are calling for is the creation of a modern-day Truman committee for this war, for expenditures in this war in particular, because, in my opinion, you cannot talk about accountability in this war without talking about the need for this kind of committee, a Truman committee.

Now, in 1940, Congress prepared for the eventual involvement of the United States of America in World War II by allocating $10 billion in defense contracts. Early in 1941, stories of contractor mismanagement reached the desk of, at that time a Missouri Senator, a future President of the United States of America, Harry S Truman. Truman, when he saw this information, decided to take action and find out for himself if this mismanagement of funds was, in fact, true. He took a 10,000-mile tour of military bases and discovered that certain contractors were getting a greater share of contracts available and that other contractors were getting paid full price for work that was either poor or inefficient. In short, what he discovered was rampant waste and mismanagement in government war contracts.

Does that sound familiar?

Well, as a result of his findings, Harry Truman went back to Washington and called for a special Senate committee to investigate. They got a lot of criticism. Many immediately criticized the Missouri Senator saying that his efforts might hurt war morale, while others thought that President Roosevelt ought to welcome this committee since it was being headed by a member of his own party and, therefore, would not be used for political gain.

Well, by unanimous consent on March 1, 1941, the Senate created what has proved to be the most famous and, in my judgment, the most successful committee of its time. The Truman Committee, with a budget of a mere $15,000 at the time, saved our country in excess of $15 billion; and in the early 1940s, $15 billion was real money. Up here some of the people don't think it is these days, but it was big money to be saved.

Now, don't you think that we could use a Truman Committee today? It seems pretty obvious to me.

The United States has allocated some $50 billion to private contractors for reconstruction in the rebuilding efforts in Iraq since the beginning of the war, and despite this $50 billion expenditure on these contracts, we hear a lot of reports of mismanagement or certainly of inefficiency and not getting the job done that we expected to see done.

For instance, only 25 percent of Iraqis have access to clean water. And prior to the war the Iraqis had electricity for an average of 16 to 24 hours a day, now that number is down to about 4.3 hours per day.

$17 billion of the $50 billion that has been given in contracts has been given through no-bid contracts to Halliburton, just to one company.

There were over 14,000 weapons by the United States of America, bought by our taxpayers and intended for Iraqi troops. Those 14,000 weapons are now missing.

And in addition to that, over $8.8 billion of Iraqi reconstruction funds are simply unaccounted for by the Coalition Provisional Authority.

Mr. Speaker, we desperately need a modern-day Truman Committee to bring some accountability to this war. We have got to stop the bleeding. We have got to stop this expenditure from continuing to be wasteful. We have got to find out firsthand what is going on with the spending in Iraq. We owe it to the taxpayers of this country, we owe it to the troops who are fighting this war.

We owe it so much to the troops. This is money that the troops need for their welfare in Iraq that is being diverted through the wasteful spending of those who are going to be financing this war. We owe it to them to stop the mishandling, stop the mismanagement of money in Iraq.

I strongly support this Blue Dog effort to have a cost accountability ethic relative to the war in Iraq because it is past time, way past time to hold the leaders of this country accountable for the money they spend in Iraq.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time to the gentleman for Arkansas, and I thank him for all of his efforts on behalf of accountability to the taxpayers in this country.

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Mr. CHANDLER. It doesn't matter, in my view, which party is in control. If we had a Democratic President, I believe that a Democratic Congress ought to hold that administration accountable just like Truman did in World War II. We have had a Republican Congress that simply has not held this Republican administration accountable. That is just simply a loss for the taxpayers. That is all you can say.

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