Eliminating "Mystery Loopholes" in the Congress
Mystery Loophole Wouldn't Require Reporting Fraud While Abroad
By Josh White Washington Post Staff Writer Thursday, March 13, 2008; A15
When Justice Department lawyers proposed adding a new rule that would require U.S. contractors to report waste, fraud or abuse they encounter while doing work for the government, they intended it to apply to all of the $350 billion in government contracts each year.
But in a twist that has evolved into a Capitol Hill mystery, the proposed rule that the White House's Office of Management and Budget published late last year includes language that would exempt from such reporting all U.S. contractors who do work overseas. There have been more than $100 billion in such contracts in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past five years.
The exemption has riled the Justice Department, which opposes limiting the rule to domestic contracts. And the loophole has led members of Congress to call for an investigation amid concerns that someone inserted the exemption as a favor to the contracting lobby that has major interests because of the ongoing wars.
"This sends the message that if you're going to do waste, fraud and abuse, don't do it at home, do it abroad," said Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), who has asked House oversight leaders to investigate. "This was slipped in at the last minute. . . . It's obviously something you can't justify in any way, and there's no answer to why you'd allow this to occur abroad any more than you'd allow it to occur domestically. There is a question as to how and why the change was made, and we don't know the answer."
What does that mean, Rep. Welch? You guys in the Congress lock your doors at night, but you have 'no idea' what is being added (or subtracted) to bills you pass?
The USA Patriot Act (infamously) was passed without a single member of the House or Senate having actually read it. It was a 'patriot' act, within a month of 9-11. That was enough.
(Wikipedia) Congressman Jim McDermott alleging that no Senator read the bill and Sen. John Conyers, Jr. as saying "We don't really read most of the bills. Do you know what that would entail if we read every bill that we passed?" Senator Conyers then answers his own rhetorical question, asserting that if they did it would "slow down the legislative process."
Or, perhaps prevent those midnight gremlins from sneaking into the bills at hand, small, not easily noticeable, but highly lucrative snippets of text. An excised adjective here, an added zero there and pretty soon you have Blackwater killing the very people you claim to liberate and even Condi Rice ends up looking confused.
We have solutions for small things. If a candidate runs an attack-ad against their competitor, they gotta sign off with "I am Senator Schmaltz and I approved this ad."
Wonderful. Senator Schmaltz can't claim a lack of awareness about ads. But when Schmaltzy gets back to his Senate office, actually reading what he votes for might slow down the process.
All those in favor of slowing down the process, raise your hands.
I thought so. The ayes (among beleaguered citizens) have it.
Would it be too much of a burden upon our sorely pressed legislators, to require them to read what they vote for or against? That seems not to be a whole lot to ask. We needn't even go so far as to demand that they understand it, poor dears, but a nodding acquaintance with the bills before them seems appropriate.
I, Sylvester Schmaltz, having been duly elected to the United States (Senate or House of Representatives), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I have read the specific document (__________) before me and that I have voted for (or against) said legislation, fully understanding it and every item attached to it.
That would be a logical demand, no matter the concerns of the Right Honorable John Conyers. Who could object to the same affirmation required of us to get a common driver's license or sign a contract. In addition,
Any change (big or small, line-item or paragraph, even down to a singular made plural) affecting a bill during its long and sometimes bloody journey through various committees and negotiations must be either signed or initialed in such a way that the author is identifiable.
Every single contract that has ever withstood the scrutiny of a court of law has that simple requirement. The common law of the land does not allow anonymous midnight excursions into the framing of contracts . . .
. . . and what is legislation, but a contract?