Tester: Bush’s refusal of Commission on Wartime Contracting ‘inexcusable’

President refuses to hold Halliburton, Blackwater accountable

(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Senator Jon Tester today called on President Bush to explain to taxpayers why he does not support establishing an independent, bipartisan commission to oversee wartime contracting.

Tester, along with Senators Jim Webb, D-Va., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., added a provision in the recent Defense Authorization Act to establish a Commission on Wartime Contracting.  The amendment unanimously passed the Senate because, according to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office, the U.S. has wasted billions of dollars in Iraq.

President Bush signed the Defense Authorization Act yesterday, but only after attaching strings to the Commission on Wartime Contracting using a Presidential signing statement.

A signing statement effectively allows a President to reinterpret legislation he signs into law.  Yesterday's Presidential signing statement said the Commission on Wartime Contracting imposes "requirements that could inhibit the President's ability to carry out his constitutional obligations."

"There's no gray area here," Tester said.  "The idea that the president would stand in the way of a non-partisan, independent committee to look into waste and fraud by companies like Blackwater and Halliburton in Iraq is inexcusable and it's irresponsible, and it ought to ruffle a lot of feathers across the country."

The Commission on Wartime Contracting would be made up of eight members from both parties.  The Commission is modeled after the successful Truman Committee, which saved taxpayers $15 billion during World War II.  The new commission would prevent waste, fraud and abuse by overseeing contractors hired to support the U.S. military and to rebuild war-torn countries.

The Commission on Wartime Contracting has support from both Democrats and Republicans, and even incorporates recommendations from the Department of Defense.

"We deliberately took partisanship out of the equation here," Tester said.  "We put together something that would help us learn some lessons and make sure that we're not wasting hard-earned taxpayer dollars.  Folks in Montana work too hard to have their money stolen by crooked contractors."