Monday, November 03, 2003

Fortune Seller

Yay! Fraud legal!

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The final version of the $87 billion spending bill for Iraq (news - web sites) and Afghanistan (news - web sites) is missing provisions the Senate had passed to penalize war profiteers who defraud American taxpayers. House negotiators on the package refused to accept the Senate provisions.

The Senate provision was authored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), and Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). It was one of the last major sticking points this week as negotiators worked through the compromise appropriations bill. The conferees narrowly defeated the amendment after lengthy debate, with House negotiators offering no substitute and no willingness to compromise, despite repeated offers from Senate conferees to negotiate the language. Republican and Democratic Senate conferees consistently supported the provision, which had been unanimously accepted during Senate Appropriations Committee markup of the bill. Leahy, Feinstein and Durbin are members of the Appropriations Committee and also of the Judiciary Committee (news - web sites), which has jurisdiction over the criminal justice system.

"Congress is about to send billions and billions of dollars to a place where there is no functioning government, under a plan with too little accountability and too few financial controls," said Leahy. "That's a formula for mischief. We need strong disincentives for those who would defraud taxpayers, and removing this protection is another major blot on this bill."