The Pah-ty's ovah

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 24, 2007

Our local congressmen have bigger fish to fry. Hodes and Murphy both made the Oversight and Government Reform assignment their top committee requests, according to their staffs. Tierney has been made chair of the key subcommittee on national security and foreign affairs. And Lynch, an early supporter of the Iraq War now disgusted with its implementation, tells the Phoenix he passed up the opportunity to chair one of the subcommittees, in order to help Waxman investigate administrative and intelligence failures in Iraq — which, unsurprisingly, will be the focus of the full committee’s first hearing.

When it comes to Iraq, Waxman isn’t screwing around: the first person he has called to testify is L. Paul Bremer, the former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Waxman sent a letter to Bremer last week, requesting him to appear at 10 am Tuesday, February 6, to answer questions about waste, fraud, and abuse in Iraq reconstruction efforts during his watch. “Be prepared to discuss an audit report . . . that concluded that more than $8.8 billion in cash under the CPA’s control was dispersed without adequate financial controls or accountability,” that letter says.

Lynch says the full committee intends to hold hearings on the intelligence-gathering and planning efforts leading up to the war, as well as investigations into what he calls the Iraq reconstruction “fiasco.”

“We want to hold the Defense Department accountable, hold the contractors involved accountable, and hold the president accountable,” Lynch says. “Some of these projects have gone 500 percent over budget.”

While the big issues on Iraq will be handled by the full committee, according to staffers, other matters relating to the Bush administration’s miserable performance on national security and foreign affairs will have a particular New England flair. Not only does Tierney chair the relevant subcommittee, but Lynch, Hodes, and Welch have all been assigned to it — and the region’s one Republican, Christopher Shays, is the subcommittee’s ranking minority.

As a group, they have incredibly broad jurisdiction, particularly with George Bush looking to start messing about with Iran and Syria. Tierney hasn’t determined an agenda yet, but in a released statement he promised to investigate “whether the intent of laws and spending bills are being followed and if their tax dollars are being spent wisely.”

That could mean anything from the handling of prisoners to domestic spying or the parceling out of homeland security contracts. Halliburton execs, prepare to be called to testify.

Everything under the sun
To many frustrated citizens, however, recent years have presented unanswered questions well beyond the realms of foreign policy and national security. They want to know, for instance, who attended those secret meetings with Dick Cheney to write the country’s energy policies. They want to know whether political ideology has prevented the Centers for Disease Control from updating its HIV Compendium since Bill Clinton left office. They want to know why the Department of Education removed evolutionary biology from the list of required components for Smart Grant eligibility. They want to know whether federal agencies have had security breaches with citizens’ private data.

Waxman and his cohorts included these among many, many past inquiries. Yet in most cases, they could do little but raise even more questions.

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