United States News Digest
House Passes Accountability in Contracting Act
On March 15, the House passed, by a vote of 347 to 73, the Accountability on Contracting Act which would require agencies to limit the use of abuse-prone contracts, and to increase transparency and accountability in Federal contracting. The act, which was introduced by House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), and had been reported out of his committee by unanimous consent, also limits to one year, the duration of no-bid contracts awarded in emergencies.
Senate Votes Down Resolution on Iraq Troop Withdrawals
The U.S. Senate defeated a Democratic resolution for troop withdrawals from Iraq, after a day of debate on the floor March 15. The vote was 48 in favor of the Resolution, and 50 against, generally split along party lines. Democrats Mark Pryor (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) voted with the Republicans, while Republican Gordon Smith (Ore.) sided with the Democrats. Not surprisingly, Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) voted with the Republicans.
Two other resolutions, non-binding, were voted up by the Senate after the troop-withdrawal vote. A pabulum resolution by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) was passed 96-2; the bill declares that the President and Congress have shared responsibilities with respect to the armed forces, and declares that Congress will support the troops by providing equipment and training before they deploy, and veteran services and health care on their return. Another non-binding resolution, from Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), passed 82-16; the bill expresses Congress's intent that no funds should be cut off or reduced for American troops in the field.
Friedmanites Target Sarbanes-Oxley
Wild Friedmanite monetarists are behind the attempt to repeal Sarbanes-Oxley, the bill against corporate fraud that Congress passed after the Enron scandal. Two days after Dick Cheney and Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson convened a semi-secret meeting to stop moves for government control over financial speculation (see Economics Digest), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) held a conference call to call for "reform" of Sarbanes-Oxley.
Cutting through the sophistry, e.g., "We cannot fiddle while American capital burns," about how regulation has made New York "Number Two" behind London as the stock exchange for initial public offerings, one of the bill's cosponsors let the cat out of the bag: London is behind this move. Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Texas) first praised Milton Friedman as the greatest American economist ever, and then quoted him as the authority who warned that Sarbanes-Oxley is a disaster which has "terrorized" U.S. corporations from taking risks in expanding, growing, etc.
Later, Feeney said that in both Hong Kong and London, financiers "are laughing at us." He said that "the joke in London is that they are erecting a statue to Sarbanes, and one to Oxley" to thank them for making London the number one in "worldwide capital." Feeney claimed that the CFO of a major firm in Hong Kong "laughed at me, and patted me on the back" when he asked them if Asian companies would list their stocks in New York.
Hagel: Solving Problems Can't Wait Till Next Election
Expected by some to announce the formation of a Presidential campaign exploratory committee, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), stated at a March 12 press conference in Omaha, Nebraska that he will hold off on any such announcement for now. The conservative Senator is the Republican most adamant in his opposition to the war in Iraq. "America's response to the challenges and opportunities that confront us today will define our future. Finding solutions to these challenges and capitalizing on these opportunities will not wait until the next election."
After citing his work on other issues, Hagel returned to the Iraq War crisis: "America is facing its most divisive and difficult issue since Vietnamthe war in Iraq, an issue that I have been deeply involved in. I want to keep my focus on helping find a responsible way out of this tragedy, and not divert my energy, efforts and judgment with competing political considerations.
"I am here today to announce that my family and I will make a decision on my political future later this year....
"A global political readjustment is also in play today ... and will respond to America's leadership. What is at stake for the future of America is larger than just American politics. Politics is simply the mechanism democracies use to affect responsible change. The world is not static, it is dynamic."
In staying out of the Presidential race, at least for now, Hagel joins fellow Vietnam vet Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) in a minority of possible contenders who have opted to focus on the crises at hand rather than entering the Fantasy Politics League.
As Lyndon LaRouche commented, the candidacies of those who have announced for President are marked by overriding hysteria. None of them has any durability.
Waxman Again Seeks Answers on Niger Uranium Claim
Noting that he had already sent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice 16 letters, and that she had only "satisfactorily responded" to fivethe ones that had been co-signed by RepublicansHouse Committee on Oversight and Government Reform chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) sent Rice yet another letter on March 12. Making reference to the fact that he was now chairman of the committee (i.e., now with subpoena powers), Waxman outlined the timeline of continued Administration assertions of the Niger yellowcake lies, in the face of evidence to the contrary. Specifically, he referenced a CIA memo, sent directly to the White House Situation Room on Oct. 6, 2002, which questioned "weakness in the evidence," and also stated that this was "one of two issues where we differed with the British intelligence." This memo came to light in a July 22, 2003 press conference, given by Stephen Hadley, then Rice's Deputy Secretary of State, but both Rice and Bush made public statements asserting the validity of the claim afterwards.
Because of Rice's failure to respond, Waxman says, "we still [do] not know what you knew about the fabricated Niger claim and when you knew it." The committee also does not yet know "who at the White House kept resuscitating this claim after intelligence officials questioned its veracity." He also included four lesser topics on which Rice has failed to respond.
AFL-CIO Endorses Medicare for All
In an extensive statement issued March 6, the AFL-CIO's Executive Council vowed, "We will mobilize our members to build support for bold, meaningful and comprehensive reform and work to pass legislation that assures everyone affordable, comprehensive coverage. We will recruit employers to join us in achieving universal coverage. And we will evaluate the health proposals of candidates for President in 2008 based on the test we have outlined and their capacity to make meaningful change to meet this urgent goal." In the meantime, the council called on Congress to enact a Medicare for All system now.
In contrast, Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) recently told the Los Angeles Times, that a single-payer health insurance system is "unlikely. I don't think Americans have a great trust of government in general. I think things like Katrina and Walter Reed don't make people feel comfortable that government's going to solve their problems. I think single-payer would be the most efficient system, but I think Americans want to have an American solution, not a Canadian solution." (Since 1970, the number of medical doctors in the United States has increased 40%, while the number of medical administrators [service employees] has increased nearly 3,000%, according to civil rights attorney Guy T. Saperstein.)