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The H.R. 3326 Department of Defense Appropriations Act 2010 bill was passed by the House on July 30, 2009, and by the Senate on October 6, 2009. GovTrack’s last update on Oct 19, 2009 12:11pm indicates that the bill may now proceed to a conference committee of senators and representatives to work out differences in the versions of the bill each chamber approved. The bill then goes to the President before becoming law.
There were about 85 amendments proposed in this bill. One of those that has attracted a greater share of attention is Senator Al Franken’s S.Amdt. 2588: “To prohibit the use of funds for any Federal contract with Halliburton Company, KBR, Inc., any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, or any other contracting party if such contractor or a subcontractor at any tier under such contract requires that employees or independent contractors sign mandatory arbitration clauses regarding certain claims.” The Franken amendment passed: Yea-Nay Vote 68 – 30 with these Republican legislators voting “no.”
The amendment was prompted by this victim who was gang-raped in Baghdad. The victim according to Mother Jones was “forced into mandatory binding arbitration, a private forum where Halliburton would hire the arbitrator, all the proceedings would be secret, and she'd have no right to appeal if she lost.” It took three years just to get the court to agree that she can sue. Read more here.
Mr. Jefferson Sessions [R] of Alabama says, “The amendment would impose the will of Congress on private individuals and companies in a retroactive fashion, in validating employment contracts without due process of law. It is a political amendment, really at bottom, representing sort of a political attack directed at Halliburton, which is politically a matter of sensitivity. Notwithstanding, the Congress should not be involved in writing or rewriting private contracts. That is just not how we should handle matters in the Senate, certainly without a lot of thought and care, and without the support or at least the opinion of the Department of Defense.”
As if by speed mail, DOD came through with an opinion. Ryan Grim reports in the Huffington Post on the Department of Defense’s position on Franken’s anti-rape amendment:
"The DoD opposes the proposed amendment," reads a message sent from the administration to the Senate on October 6, the day the amendment passed by a 68-30 vote. "The Department of Defense, the prime contractor, and higher tier subcontractors may not be in a position to know about such things. Enforcement would be problematic, especially in cases where privity of contract does not exist between parties within the supply chain that supports a contract," reads the DoD note. "It may be more effective to seek a statutory prohibition of all such arrangements in any business transaction entered into within the jurisdiction of the United States, if these arrangements are deemed to pose an unacceptable method of recourse."
What? That sounds like a cracker bonbon!
RfR asks, “Whats the big deal?” and writes: “The 2010 Franken Senate Defense Appropriations Amendment overreaches into the business of private enterprise. Defense contractors are a part of the functioning free market; not the Federal Government. A handful of isolated assaults is no reason to summon the interference of the Federal Government and Congress. This amendment interferes with the privacy of companies and the ability of our defense contractors to effectively conduct the business of protecting America from terrorism.” Read here why RfR exists.
Yeah, right, of course. This is nothing but a political amendment and has nothing to do with protecting working people. Yes, enforcement would be problematic, wouldn't it? And expensive. They may have to add a few more millions on the government's tab. Oh, heavens! They may have to spend more time screening people before they send them off to work in the red zones! Holy mother of goat and all her crazy uncles!
The business of America is business, but at what cost? See that’s actually 30 out of 100 United States Senators who voted in favor of business interests over the rights and dignity of individual victims. Congress could pass laws cutting off highway funds to States which didn’t raise their drinking age to 21 but some legislators don't want to do anything about this because well, what if these companies don't want to work for the taxpayers anymore? Then what? Yep, where would they be if they can't bid on our lucrative contracts?
This makes me want to weep and throw my shoes at the somebodies. Really.
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If Liz Were Queen posted yesterday that there is talk that the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) may allow this amendment to be stripped out or watered down. She also has a list of talking points in her site when talking to your representatives. Go, please call 202-224-3542 and tell the Majority Leader not to strip or water this down. Call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and tell your senators to keep the Franken Amendment, S.Amdt. 2588, in the defense appropriations bill.