From Volume 4, Issue Number 40 of EIR Online, Published Oct. 4, 2005

United States News Digest

In Wake of DeLay Indictment, Cheney's in Trouble, Too

Vice President Dick Cheney is in political trouble in the spreading shock from the indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay; as Lyndon LaRouche joked: "The report on DeLay has hit the fan—and now it's spreading." One clear indication, is that now Cheney's White House orders, which he is trying to impose on the Senate through Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn)—himself under scrutiny for insider trading—are being fought hard by Frist's own Republican committee chairmen and other Republican leaders, as well as Democratic Senators. And the HCA criminal investigation of Frist, even if being used to keep him in line, is weakening his ability to carry these orders out. Several important fights are occurring now:

* Senate Armed Services Committee chairman John Warner (R-Va) is fighting the Majority Leader over Frist's withdrawal of the fiscal 2006 Defense Authorization bill from the Senate floor, "for the rest of the year," to keep Warner, John McCain (R-Ariz), and Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) from amending that bill to give Congress the oversight of treatment of detainees at Guantanamo and elsewhere. On Sept. 29, Warner joined Democratic Sen. Carl Levin (Mich), in making the entire Defense Authorization into an amendment to the Defense Appropriations—an unprecedented move—in order to force the Authorization bill to the floor over Frist's dead body, and enforce Congress's authority over prisoner of war treatment. Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania, a senior Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, and a veteran who is highly respected on military matters, is supporting Warner and McCain's amendment, including, implicitly, in a forthcoming House-Senate conference committee.

* Senators Trent Lott (R-Miss) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) are fighting the White House and Frist to get through the expansion of Federally funded Medicaid to hurricane victims—an $8.9 billion cost, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The White House sent Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt to the Hill to fight this "creation of a whole new class of entitlement." But Lott says they will "try to pass this bill with or without" White House support. "I'm going to look after our people first." Grassley went further, saying that if the White House will not agree on this urgent matter, then it can forget about looking for the five-year cuts of $35 billion in the general budget, which Congress had agreed to in the FY2006 concurrent budget resolution.

The Bush Administration: 'Cronyism and Corruption'

"The Bush Administration: A Culture of Cronyism and Corruption" is the title of a memo from the office of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, issued Sept. 28. The "Rogue's Gallery" includes Michael Brown of FEMA; Abramoff crony, David Safavian, the chief of all procurement for the Office of Management and Budget, arrested, Sept. 19 for corruption; it also cites the $1.5 billion in contracts signed by FEMA for Katrina work that "were awarded without bidding or with limited competition."

The introduction, by Reid's spokesman, Jim Manley, says that the Bush Administration is about "know-who" not "know-how," and "it's the American people who pay the price" when jobs go to the White House cronies.

While the statement doesn't overtly gloat over the DeLay indictment, it raises the roof over the fact that Michael "Brownie" Brown, the fired head of FEMA, was immediately hired back as a "consultant" to the same agency, for the same salary he had been receiving. It also goes after Pentagon no-bid contracts, and slams Halliburton, KBR, and the Shaw group for getting no-bid Katrina contracts, while being represented by former FEMA head Joe Allbaugh, who served during Bush's first term.

It also notes how the Bush Administration persecuted "whistle-blowers," from Frederick Black, the prosecutor who was demoted three years ago while investigating DeLay money-man, Jack Abramoff, to Gen. Eric Shinseki, who was forced into retirement for "questioning the war in Iraq."

(See InDepth, "DeLay Indictment Major Step Toward Bringing Down Corrupt Cartel" for more on this topic.)

Judge Orders Release of More Abu Ghraib Photos

U.S. District Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein ordered the release Sept. 29 of more Abu Ghraib abuse photos and videos. In a 50-page ruling, the judge rejected the Pentagon's claims that the release of these photos would put American soldiers in harm's way and would aid Al-Qaeda in recruitment, and weaken the governments of Iraq and Afghanstan.

Judge Hellerstein said that the release of the photos will help answer questions about "the command structure that failed to exercise discipline over the troops, and the persons in the command structure whose failures in exercising supervision may make them culpable, along with the soldiers who were court-martialed for perpetuating the wrongs." The release of the photos was stayed for ten days, pending an expected government appeal.

Homeland Security IG Warned FEMA Inadequately Prepared

The staff of Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif), the ranking Democrat on the House Government Reform Committee, issued a report Sept. 29, showing that the Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security had warned Federal Emergency Management Administration of inadequate preparation for a disaster, which was rejected by FEMA. The IG report of June 2005, two months before Katrina, said that the information management system at FEMA had been overwhelmed during the 2004 huricanes in Florida. This included personnel and equipment deployment at disaster sites, and "tracking of essential commodities, such as ice and water, needed by disaster victims."

The FEMA response, signed by then-Director Michael Brown, called the criticism "unacceptable."

Louisiana Senator Blasts Ex-FEMA Chief Brown

Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana blasted former FEMA chief Michael Brown's testimony before "bipartisan" Senate committee hearings, blaming state and local officials for the catastrophe following Hurricane Katrina, according to Congressional Quarterly Sept. 28. Vitter told CNN that there was blame to go around both locally and in Washington, but: "For Mike Brown to make those criticisms is, quite frankly, pretty laughable. That's sort of like the head of Enron criticizing another company on corporate ethics.... I didn't see any evidence [of leadership qualities] for the 10 days or so I was with Mike Brown almost daily."

House Panel Votes Down BRAC Resolution of Disapproval

By a 43-14 vote, the House Armed Services Committee, on Sept. 27, reported adversely a resolution to disapprove the report of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC). Under the special rules provided for by the BRAC law, the resolution must still go to the House, which Rep. Curt Weldon (R-Pa), acting as chairman of the committee, said would probably happen either just before or just after the Columbus Day break. However, a floor vote is unlikely to be any less lopsided than the committee vote was, and there is no companion resolution in the Senate, making Congressional action to overturn the BRAC report extremely unlikely.

EIR Confronts Rep. Skelton on Plans To Attack Iran

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, was somewhat taken aback when asked by EIR's Bill Jones at a Sept. 28 press roundtable about the various mootings of envisioned aerial strikes against Iran, including discussions between U.S. and Israeli officials on the subject. "Who in the heck is proposing that!" Skelton asked. "The same think tanks and political groupings that got us enmired in Iraq," Jones replied. Skelton was sitting in a room with a few reporters surrounded by several two- and three-star generals. "There's an old adage," Skelton said. " 'Never have more enemies than you can handle.' Let's hope against hope that the elections in Iraq will be successful and lead to some stability in that country. But, by God, don't try and start another fight on top of the one we're already involved in."

Skelton had been the concluding speaker at the annual Eisenhower National Security series, a major two-day conference sponsored by the Eisenhower Institute, the Woodrow Wilson Center and the Department of the Army.

Some Republicans Object To Davis-Bacon Suspension

Thirty-seven House Republicans have signed a letter to President Bush asking him to terminate his suspension of the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law by Nov. 8. The Republicans, led by Rep. Frank Lobiondo (R-NJ) and Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio) write that while they respect the President's statutory prerogative to suspend Davis-Bacon in times of emergency, "we felt strongly that an indefinite suspension is fundamentally unfair to Gulf Coast construction workers." They also argue that Davis-Bacon ensures better productivity, because it attracts more experienced workers who build projects with lower repair and maintenance costs than lower-paid workers.

None of signers of the letter have signed on as co-sponsors of legislation introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif) to repeal Bush's suspension of Davis-Bacon (which now has 188 co-sponsors, all Democrats), however, they apparently share the Democrats concern that the intent is to make the suspension indefinite, in order to weaken the law. They warned that Bush must make his order temporary to "prevent potential legislative action by Congress."

The last time Davis-Bacon was suspended was in October 1992, by President George H.W. Bush, and not lifted until after the election of Bill Clinton.

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