- The Washington Times - Monday, February 5, 2007

Rep. Henry A. Waxman today opens a series of hearings promised by Democrats to look into Bush administration management of Iraq reconstruction efforts, homeland security projects and federal health care programs.

Mr. Waxman, California Democrat and chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has said the four days of hearings will examine “waste, fraud and abuse.”

The hearings by the new Democratic majority are not designed to embarrass President Bush but are “just fact-finding,” a committee aide said.

Witnesses will include L. Paul Bremer, former administrator of the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq; testimony by the family of private security workers killed by a Fallujah mob in 2004; and an examination of “fraudulent, abusive or wasteful” drug pricing in Medicaid and Medicare programs.

Mr. Waxman last week conducted a hearing on charges of White House meddling in the work of government climate-change scientists. He vowed more hearings into what he described as the abuses of power and taxpayer money by the Bush administration.

White House officials say they welcome added oversight, but House Republicans said the hearings more closely resemble a botched firing squad than a fact-finding exercise.

“This is a classic example of ‘ready, fire, aim’ oversight,” said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III of Virginia, the committee’s ranking Republican. He said the committee organized a “slap-and-dash” judgment instead of the methodical oversight that war and security demand.

“The main value in revisiting past mistakes is to make sure the right lessons are learned and corrective actions put in place,” Mr. Davis said. “Self-righteous finger wagging and political scapegoating won’t make Iraq any more secure, won’t rebuild that ravaged nation and won’t bring U.S. troops home any sooner.”

The hearing today will delve into the administration’s decisions on Iraq reconstruction. Mr. Bremer is scheduled as the first to testify and will answer charges that he “filled positions with unqualified staff who were politically connected,” according to committee briefing documents.

“He will answer questions about an audit report issued in 2005 by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction that concluded that more than $8.8 billion in cash was disbursed without adequate financial controls,” the documents said.

Other officials scheduled to testify are Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the special inspector for Iraq reconstruction, and David Oliver, former CPA director of management and budget. The State Department refused a request for testimony by Timothy Carney, coordinator for economic transition in Iraq.

The hearing tomorrow will focus on four employees of security contractor Blackwater USA who were killed and mutilated by a mob in Fallujah in March 2004. Family members — two mothers, a daughter and a wife — are set to testify “about what they view as profiteering by Blackwater USA, including the company’s alleged failure to provide armored vehicles and other critical safety equipment,” the documents said.

The third day of hearings Thursday will look at the Department of Homeland Security’s management of large projects, focusing on the Deepwater program to develop new Coast Guard ships and the Secure Border Initiative for high-tech border defense.

The committee Friday will explore whether more congressional oversight is needed to combat “fraudulent, abusive or wasteful” pricing by drug companies dealing with Medicare, Medicaid and other federal programs.