Why Did Bush Use A Pocket Veto/Veto On The 2008 Defense Authorization Bill?
President Bush pulled an odd executive maneuver when he claimed a "pocket veto" of H.R. 1585, the "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008."
He claimed a pocket veto, while technically Bush vetoed the bill under the Constitution. In the president's Memorandum of Disapproval, he gave one main reason: his objection to Section 1083 of the legislation.
Call me crazy (or just plain realistic), but I'm reluctant to take our dear president's word as to his actual motive(s) for such a strange method of vetoing the bill.
There just might be more to it.
Limitations On Ballistic Missile Defense Systems
It's no secret that President Bush is a big fan of Missile Defense Systems. From earlier this year:
George W. Bush has returned to a central national security tenet of his early days as President: the need for missile defense. Beyond fighting terrorism, no issue is more important to the President's strategic vision, and he and his closest advisers have pursued anti-missile programs from the earliest days of the Administration. But as he presses his efforts to get a regional missile defense system in train for central Europe before he leaves office, Bush faces more resistance than he bargained for, resistance that now threatens to overshadow his other foreign policy legacy efforts.
The resistance to Bush's plans goes beyond world leaders; count Congress in. It is included in H.R. 1585, Section 226:
SEC. 226. LIMITATION ON AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS FOR PROCUREMENT, CONSTRUCTION, AND DEPLOYMENT OF MISSILE DEFENSES IN EUROPE.
(a) GENERAL LIMITATION.-No funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be obligated or expended for procurement, site activation, construction, preparation of equipment for, or deployment of a long-range missile defense system in Europe until the following conditions have been met:
Among the conditions: giving affected nations final approval (veto) authority, independent (i.e. not Bush & Co.) analysis of all data regarding feasibility of missile defense systems and the investigation of alternative methods of defense other than "Star Wars."
No-Bid Contracts In The War On Terror
Despite Bush administration denials regarding the problems with no-bid or "single-source" contracts the issue has been a point of concern for quite a while.
The top six recipients of federal contracts are Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics, and Halliburton. Collectively, they received $99.9 billion in 2006, 24% of all federal procurement spending....The fastest-growing major federal contractor during the Bush Administration has been Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Cheney. In 2000, Halliburton was the 28th largest contractor, receiving $763 million in federal dollars. By 2006, the company had leaped to the sixth largest federal contractor, receiving over $6 billion in federal dollars. This is an increase of 700% over the six year period.
Section 843 of H.R. 1585 deals with the no-bid contract problem:
SEC. 843. ENHANCED COMPETITION REQUIREMENTS FOR TASK AND
DELIVERY ORDER CONTRACTS.
(a) DEFENSE CONTRACTS.-
(1) LIMITATION ON SINGLE AWARD CONTRACTS.-Section 2304a(d) of title 10, United States Code, is amended-
(A) by redesignating paragraph (3) as paragraph (4);and
(B) by inserting after paragraph (2) the following new paragraph (3):
''(3)(A) No task or delivery order contract in an amount estimated to exceed $100,000,000 (including all options) may be awarded to a single source unless the head of the agency determines in writing that-
''(i) the task or delivery orders expected under the contract are so integrally related that only a single source can reasonably perform the work;
''(ii) the contract provides only for firm, fixed price task orders or delivery orders for-
''(I) products for which unit prices are established in the contract; or
''(II) services for which prices are established in the contract for the specific tasks to be performed;
''(iii) only one source is qualified and capable of performing the work at a reasonable price to the government; or
''(iv) because of exceptional circumstances, it is necessary in the public interest to award the contract to a single source.
(2) ENHANCED COMPETITION FOR ORDERS IN EXCESS OF
$5,000,000.-Section 2304c of such title is amended-
(A) by redesignating subsections (d), (e), and (f) as subsections (e), (f), and (g), respectively;
(B) by inserting after subsection (c) the following new subsection (d):
''(d) ENHANCED COMPETITION FOR ORDERS IN EXCESS OF
$5,000,000.-In the case of a task or delivery order in excess of
$5,000,000, the requirement to provide all contractors a fair opportunity to be considered under subsection (b) is not met unless all such contractors are provided, at a minimum-
''(1) a notice of the task or delivery order that includes a clear statement of the agency's requirements;
''(2) a reasonable period of time to provide a proposal in response to the notice;
''(3) disclosure of the significant factors and subfactors, including cost or price, that the agency expects to consider in evaluating such proposals, and their relative importance;
''(4) in the case of an award that is to be made on a best value basis, a written statement documenting the basis for the award and the relative importance of quality and price or cost factors.
In addition, Section 844 requires public disclosure of no-bid contracts.
Waste Analysis In Expenditures In The War On Terror
Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) has attempted to get information regarding waste and fraud in Iraq:
The American people and Congress deserve honest answers about the extent of corruption in the Maliki government and whether corruption is fueling the insurgency and endangering our troops. It is essential that we know whether entrenched corruption threatens the ability of the Maliki government to succeed.
Inquiries such as Congressman Waxman's ("Billions of taxpayer dollars have been squandered on contracts in Iraq") have been met with retroactive classification of documents and information and overall stonewalling by the Bush Administration.
Section 842 of H.R. 1585 might just put a dent in the administration's methods:
SEC. 842. INVESTIGATION OF WASTE, FRAUD, AND ABUSE IN WARTIME CONTRACTS AND CONTRACTING PROCESSES IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN.
(a) AUDITS REQUIRED.-Thorough audits shall be performed in accordance with this section to identify potential waste, fraud, and abuse in the performance of-
(1) Department of Defense contracts, subcontracts, and task and delivery orders for the logistical support of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; and
(2) Federal agency contracts, subcontracts, and task and delivery orders for the performance of security and reconstruction functions in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Regulation of Contractors Such As Blackwater
From The Nation's Jeremy Scahill:
Contractors have provided the Bush Administration with political cover, allowing the government to deploy private forces in a war zone free of public scrutiny, with the deaths, injuries and crimes of those forces shrouded in secrecy. The Administration and the GOP-controlled Congress in turn have shielded the contractors from accountability, oversight and legal constraints. Despite the presence of more than 100,000 private contractors on the ground in Iraq, only one has been indicted for crimes or violations. "We have over 200,000 troops in Iraq and half of them aren't being counted, and the danger is that there's zero accountability," says Democrat Dennis Kucinich, one of the leading Congressional critics of war contracting.
Bush's private mercenary force might just be reigned in by Section 862 of H.R. 1585:
SEC. 862. CONTRACTORS PERFORMING PRIVATE SECURITY FUNCTIONS
IN AREAS OF COMBAT OPERATIONS.
(a) REGULATIONS ON CONTRACTORS PERFORMING PRIVATE SECURITY FUNCTIONS.-
(1) IN GENERAL.-Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State, shall prescribe regulations on the selection, training, equipping, and conduct of personnel performing private security functions under a covered contract in an area of combat operations.
(2) ELEMENTS.-The regulations prescribed under subsection(a) shall, at a minimum, establish-
(A) a process for registering, processing, accounting for, and keeping appropriate records of personnel performing private security functions in an area of combat operations;
(B) a process for authorizing and accounting for weapons to be carried by, or available to be used by, personnel performing private security functions in an area of combat operations;
(C) a process for the registration and identification of armored vehicles, helicopters, and other military vehicles operated by contractors performing private security functions in an area of combat operations;
(D) a process under which contractors are required to report all incidents, and persons other than contractors are permitted to report incidents, in which-
(i) a weapon is discharged by personnel performing private security functions in an area of combat operations;
(ii) personnel performing private security functions in an area of combat operations are killed or injured; or
(iii) persons are killed or injured, or property is destroyed, as a result of conduct by contractor personnel;
(E) a process for the independent review and, if practicable, investigation of-
(i) incidents reported pursuant to subparagraph (D); and
(ii) incidents of alleged misconduct by personnel performing private security functions in an area of combat operations.
Guantanamo Bay Detainees
President Bush protects his right to hold so-called "enemy combatants" at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba - without charges, without the right of habeas corpus, and without the right of American-style trials:
Many legislators have expressed their opposition to Guantanamo.
Such opposition is memorialized in Section 1066 of H.R. 1585:
SEC. 1066. SENSE OF CONGRESS REGARDING DETAINEES AT NAVAL
STATION, GUANTANAMO BAY, CUBA.
It is the sense of Congress that-
(1) the Nation extends its gratitude to the military personnel who guard and interrogate some of the world's most dangerous men every day at Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba;
(2) the United States Government should urge the international community, in general, and in particular, the home countries of the detainees who remain in detention despite having been ordered released by a Department of Defense administrative review board, to work with the Department of Defense to facilitate and expedite the repatriation of such detainees;
(3) detainees at Guantanamo Bay, to the maximum extent possible, should be charged and expeditiously prosecuted for crimes committed against the United States; and
(4) operations at Guantanamo Bay should be carried out in a way that upholds the national interest and core values of the American people.
The "Biden Plan" For Iraq
Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Joe Biden (D-DE) has consistently advocated for a soft partition of Iraq into three semiautonomous regions (Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni) inside a central Iraqi federalized government.
President Bush has long resisted this solution in Iraq stating:
Success in Iraq requires a united Iraq . . . The prime minister made clear that splitting his country into parts, as some have suggested, is not what the Iraqi people want and that any partition of Iraq would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence. I agree.
While not binding, Section 1227 of H.R. 1585 provides for the Biden plan rather than Bush's:
SEC. 1227. SENSE OF CONGRESS ON FEDERALISM IN IRAQ.
It is the sense of Congress that-
(1) policies supported by the United States in the pursuit of a political settlement in Iraq should be consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and should not violate the sovereignty of the nation of Iraq;
(2) if the Iraqi people support a political settlement in Iraq based on the final provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions, consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders, the United States should actively support such a political settlement in Iraq;
(3) the active support referred to in paragraph (2) should include-
(A) calling on the international community, including countries with troops in Iraq, the permanent 5 members of the United Nations Security Council, members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and Iraq's neighbors-
(i) to support an Iraqi political settlement based on federalism;
(ii) to acknowledge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Iraq; and
(iii) to fulfill commitments for the urgent delivery of significant assistance and debt relief to Iraq, especially those made by the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council; and
(B) convening a conference for Iraqis to reach an agreement on a comprehensive political settlement based on the federalism law approved by the Iraqi Parliament on October 11, 2006;
(4) the United States should urge the Government of Iraq to quickly agree upon and implement a law providing for the equitable distribution of oil revenues, which is a critical component of a comprehensive political settlement in Iraq, including a potential settlement based upon federalism;
(5) the steps described in paragraphs (2), (3), and (4) could lead to an Iraq that is stable, not a haven for terrorists, and not a threat to its neighbors;
(6) in pursuit of a political settlement in Iraq, whether based on federalism or not, the United States should call on Iraq's neighbors to pledge not to militarily intervene in or destabilize Iraq; and
(7) nothing in this Act should be construed in any way to infringe on the sovereign rights of the nation of Iraq or to imply that the United States wishes to impose a political settlement in Iraq based on federalism if such a political settlement is contrary to the wishes of the Iraqi people.
Given all the above, is it possible that the reason(s) for President Bush's pocket veto/veto ploy might not end at simply Section 1083? There is SO much more in this bill that Bush might object to - I've only hit on the highlights. If you have a few spare hours, give the 603-page bill a read - especially if you are suffering from insomnia!
Note: I purposefully omitted discussion of Section 1079 in this article as Digby has done a great job covering it already.
As a "Fun Fact" (copyright, "The Stephanie Miller Show") regarding H.R. 1585, consider Section 1233:
SEC. 1233. REIMBURSEMENT OF CERTAIN COALITION NATIONS FOR
SUPPORT PROVIDED TO UNITED STATES MILITARY OPERATIONS.
(a) AUTHORITY.-From funds made available for the Department of Defense by section 1508 for operation and maintenance, Defense-wide activities, the Secretary of Defense may reimburse any key cooperating nation for logistical and military support provided by that nation to or in connection with United States military operations in Operation Iraqi Freedom or Operation Enduring Freedom.
(b) AMOUNTS OF REIMBURSEMENT.-
(1) IN GENERAL.-Reimbursement authorized by subsection
(a) may be made in such amounts as the Secretary of Defense, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State and in consultation with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, may determine, based on documentation determined by the
Secretary of Defense to adequately account for the support provided.
(2) STANDARDS.-Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Defense shall prescribe standards for determining the kinds of logistical and military support to the United States that shall be considered reimbursable under the authority in subsection (a). Such standards may not take effect until 15 days after the date on which the Secretary submits to the congressional defense committees a report setting forth such standards.
(1) LIMITATION ON AMOUNT.-The total amount of reimbursements made under the authority in subsection (a) during fiscal year 2008 may not exceed $1,200,000,000.
So much for the "Coalition Of The Willing."