HOUSE PASSES SHERMAN AMENDMENT TO BAN NO-BID CONTRACTS IN IRAQ
The vote surprised most observers as it is rare that the Republican-dominated House passes legislation so clearly aimed at the White House.
Current law requires an open competitive bidding process for most government contracts but allows exceptions for "emergencies", national security, and certain other situations. The amendment eliminates these exceptions for the $2.1 billion the bill provides to build oil infrastructure in Iraq.
"In light of recent revelations, Democrats and many Republicans do not trust the Administration to use the government contracting exceptions rarely and fairly. For decades we have granted administrations the right to use sole-source, no-bid contracts in emergency situations. Today, the House decided that it could not give this Administration that flexibility to deal with emergencies. This Administration discovers an "emergency" all too conveniently. That is why the House voted that every oil infrastructure contract must be by the book," Sherman said.
Members of Congress and the media have raised concerns in recent months about Bush Administration contracting procedures in Iraq, specifically the penchant for utilizing these loopholes in procurement laws, which allow for no-bid, "sole source" contracts and secret solicitations for bids from only a handful of firms. Those selected as the winners of Iraq contracts have often been heavy contributors to the Bush campaign.
The most egregious example is a $1.4 billion no-bid contract awarded to Halliburton prior to the start of the recent war. In addition, the company, which Vice President Cheney formerly headed, is charging more than a double the going rate for gasoline in Iraq. Halliburton also substantially over-charged the government for its work in Kosovo, according to the General Accounting Office.
Audio file: Congressman Brad Sherman's opening statement at a Democratic Policy Committee hearing (11/3/03) on Contracting Abuses in Iraq. Sherman discussed his amendment to require open competitive bidding on all contracts to build oil infrastructure in Iraq -- his amendment passed the House of Representatives but was stripped out of the legislation in the Conference Committee.