WASHINGTON – The Army would ignore the votes of 99 senators if it were to renege on plans to open competition for companies to restore Iraq's oil production, the Senate (search) sponsor of competitive bidding legislation said Tuesday.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said the Army Corps of Engineers would contradict its own timetable if it should fail to end the lucrative monopoly given to Halliburton.
Cheney's office has said repeatedly that the vice president has severed ties with the company and had no role in awarding the work to Halliburton's KBR subsidiary.
Boxer was reacting to an Associated Press story last week that said Halliburton's work was likely to last longer than estimated as costs to the government escalated. The government had approved $213.7 million in payments to KBR as of last week, up from $184.7 million the first week in June.
Boxer said a delay would be "a direct rebuke of the will of the United States Senate," which voted 99-0 on May 22 to force the Army to award a competitive replacement contract by Aug. 31 or explain the delay. The amendment was added to the Senate version of the defense authorization bill, which is headed to a House-Senate conference. The Senate Armed Services chairman, John Warner, R-Va., co-sponsored the amendment.
Lt. Col. Eugene Pawlik, a spokesman for the Corps of Engineers, said, "We generally don't reply directly to statements from any of our elected representatives. We certainly try to comply with directions we receive from Congress. If we have a requirement to report back to Congress on the contracting, and provide background on why the process has gone the way it has, we certainly will do that."
The Corps last week said that given requirements necessary to rebuild Iraq's oil industry, it could not have a proposal ready for contractor bidding by the original August timetable.
Further, Corps officials said there would be no second contract if the oil restoration mission were to be completed before another company could take over or if the Iraqis make arrangements for additional help.