WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) spoke on the House Floor today in support of the five government accountability and transparency bills considered by the House this week. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Congressman Waxman of California, for his hard work and leadership on the five government accountability and transparency bills considered on the House Floor this week.
"It is no mere coincidence that the four bipartisan bills we have considered so far have passed with an average of 340 votes - including an average of 112 Republican votes. In fact, this is a clear demonstration of the new Democratic Majority's commitment to change the way business is done in Washington, to restore accountability for government practices and Congressional oversight, and to reach bipartisan consensus when possible.
"Those four bills included measures to increase public access to government information by strengthening the Freedom of Information Act; to provide whistleblower protections to federal workers who specialize in national security issues; to nullify an executive order issued by President Bush giving former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or to delay their release indefinitely; and to require the disclosure of donors to presidential libraries.
"It should be noted that the first three measures passed overwhelmingly, despite veto threats from the White House. All four bills are reasonable, prudent, and consistent with our nation's democratic values of openness and accountability.
"The legislation before us today - the "Accountability in Contracting Act" - is equally important. In short, this legislation would instruct federal agencies to minimize the use of no-bid contracts; promote the use of cost-effective, fixed-price contracts; and limit the duration of no-bid contracts awarded in emergencies to one year. This bill also would require the public disclosure of the rationale for using no-bid contracts, and require agencies to report to Congress on contract overcharges.
"Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate but true that problems in government contracting have arisen again and again during the last six years - from the $2.4 billion in no-bid contracts for Halliburton to the failed contracting in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
"Furthermore, it should be noted that spending on no-bid contracts has more than doubled under the Bush Administration - even as hearings have exposed a pattern of reckless spending, poor planning and ineffective oversight by federal contract officials.
"This legislation - like the other four bills considered this week - will help us begin to restore accountability and transparency to government. The American people expect and deserve no less.
"This is a new day in this new Congress. The days of hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil are over. This Congress embraces its constitutional responsibility to conduct real, meaningful oversight - as well as our values of openness and transparency. I urge my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle: Vote for this important legislation."