Oversight

A weekly rundown of the latest efforts of lawmakers to scrutinize the actions of the executive branch.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee (Sept. 5): Chairman Joseph Biden (D-Del.) wrote a letter to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates calling on the Pentagon to fix the delays in funding and transportation to Iraq of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles (MRAPs). Seventy percent of U.S. deaths in Iraq are a result of roadside bombs, Biden wrote, and an increased number of MRAPs could reduce casualties by two-thirds or more.

“While you have said the MRAP is your top priority, in a time of war, it must be more. It must be a national priority,” the letter said.

The White House’s amended wartime budget request for fiscal 2008 includes $5.8 billion to purchase 8,000 MRAPs. But Biden wrote that that number “ignores the larger needs in Iraq. An additional 15,000 vehicles — above the 8,000 for which you have budgeted — would be needed. As you know, I have offered an amendment to the defense authorization bill to fully fund 15,000 additional MRAPs; I will offer that same amendment to the wartime supplemental and the defense appropriations bill if need be, but I cannot understand why the administration is not at least asking for some portion of the necessary funds.”

House Committee on Education and Labor (Sept. 5): Chairman George Miller (D-Calif.) sent a letter to U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao asking for documents and other information about the Department of Labor’s role in the rescue efforts at the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah.

“As you know, three rescue personnel, including a Mine Safety and Health Administration Inspector, were killed during the recue operation,” Miller wrote. “The Committee requests all documents relating to the rescue effort undertaken in response to the original structural failure on August 6, 2007, including the mine rescue plan submitted to MSHA and all documents reflecting internal MSHA or Department communication regarding the rescue.

“In addition, the Committee seeks the names, institutional affiliations, and a brief description of the role of each individual who directly assisted with the rescue efforts or rescue planning in the wake of the August 6 incident.”