Republicans in the Senate are throwing a hissy fit over health reform, using all kinds of obscure rules to block any business from getting done. Their latest tactic is to force adjournment of all Senate committee hearings after 2 pm, using a little known Senate rule. (Don’t you just love those!)
Among the many hearings canceled due to Republican flailing was an oversight hearing on contracts for police training in Afghanistan in the Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight in the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. And this comes days after the GAO temporarily blocked Blackwater from getting a $1 billion contract in Afghanistan, which was to be the subject of the hearing.
Senator McCaskill, who is Chairman of the subcommittee, took to the Senate floor today to decry Republicans and their attempt to stand up for Blackwater and other such contractors:
In ten minutes, I was supposed to convene a hearing on the contracts for police training in Afghanistan. Now, this is a very important part of our mission in Afghanistan, is the training of local police departments. There was a witness who was going to be there form the State Department, a witness there from the Defense Department. The Inspector Generals were going to be there.
Just last week, GAO wiped out a contract that had been let on police training because of problems in the way the contract was competed, so this hearing was timely and it’s important. We cannot succeed in Afghanistan if we do not have effective police training, and these contracts are problematic. The State Department is supposed to be overseeing it. We have hundreds of millions of dollars that’s not being accounted for.
So what do I find out this morning? The Republican party is not going to let us have a hearing? What in the world? Why in the world are we not being allowed to work this afternoon? Why in the world are we not able to ask questions at a hearing in a few minutes as to why the police training is not going well in Afghanistan and how we can do it better? Our men and women are over there and they are at risk if we don’t get this right.
I don’t get it. I don’t get what the purpose of saying no is. I don’t get what we accomplish. We’re sent here to work. We’re paid by the people of this country to work. And the idea that I had to call these witnesses and say, "Go home," because the Republicans won’t let us have a hearing. Somebody has got to explain this to me.
Senator Levin, who previously sent a letter to Attorney General Holder asking for investigations into Blackwater, had a Armed Services Committee hearing canceled as well.
Even after killing innocent Iraqis in the streets and stealing guns from the U.S. government, Blackwater has only been temporarily blocked from a new $1 billion contract in Afghanistan. Hearings like McCaskill’s are the avenues where Blackwater can eventually be stopped from doing business with the American people. And Republicans, in their hissy fit over health care, are standing up not just for the insurance companies but for contractors like Blackwater as well.
Members of Congress make $174,000 per year, and Republicans don’t even want to work full days. Me? Anything that gets us out of Afghanistan quicker I’m for, and right now, part of that is oversight hearings and passing bills like the Stop Outsourcing our Security Act to stop these awful contractors, who do nothing but perpetuate the war, steal taxpayer money, and define our terrible image overseas.