Senator tries again to form panel to probe war contracts

North Dakota lawmaker says oversight is needed to combat contracting abuses in Iraq.

Democratic Policy Committee Chairman Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., is renewing his efforts to create a panel modeled after the Truman Committee that would investigate fraud and abuse in Iraq War contracting, but he faces an uphill battle.

As Dorgan envisions it, the committee would include members from both parties and would have subpoena power. The panel, similar to one used by then-Sen. Harry Truman, D-Mo., to investigate World War II programs, is needed to combat contracting abuses in Iraq, the North Dakota lawmaker said.

Dorgan has conducted similar oversight hearings under the policy panel's umbrella, but said the bipartisan makeup, subpoena power and singular focus of the special committee would be far more effective and efficient.

"We're going to go where the whistleblowers and the evidence takes us to do hearings," he said.

Dorgan tried to form a similar committee three times in recent years, but despite unified Democratic support he has not been able to get the 60 votes needed to avoid a filibuster. That is likely to be a huge hurdle this time.

Dorgan said Wednesday that he has the backing of Senate Majority Leader Reid and is actively seeking Republican votes. He said he would not bring up the measure during the upcoming debate on a supplemental spending bill for the war, but is looking at a number of other bills in search of a vehicle to carry his provision to the Senate floor.

A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader McConnell declined to comment on the matter, but a GOP aide who asked not to be identified was skeptical of the need for such a committee.

"Republicans are all finding wasteful spending and rooting it out," the aide said. "One way to do that is fewer Truman Committees and more responsible legislators."