Senior Republican and Democratic lawmakers asked on Friday that a congressional investigation into how federal contracts were awarded for the reconstruction of Iraq be expanded to include nearly every aspect of the US occupation.
It was a sign of congressional displeasure with the White House's plans for rebuilding Iraq and what lawmakers perceive as the administration's reluctance to give them an active role in overseeing those plans.
In an unusual show of cooperation, the ranking Republicans and Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee sent a letter on Friday to the head of the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, asking that he immediately begin assessing security efforts, humanitarian programs, economic development, procurement and political operations in Iraq.
The letter to David Walker, the comptroller general of the accounting office, was signed by Republican Senator Richard Lugar, who is chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee; Democrat Senator Joseph Biden Jr., that committee's ranking minority mem-ber; Republican Representative Henry Hyde., who is chairman of the International Relations Committee; and Representative Tom Lantos of California, that committee's ranking Democrat.
More than a month after US President George W. Bush declared "the regime of Saddam Hussein is no more," Congress is more vigorously asking why the administration's plan has failed to provide basic security and services in Iraq.
"The members gave up on getting the administration to share information, so they asked for this full investigation," said a senior congressional staff member, a Democrat.
In the letter, the lawmakers said that they "recognize the complexity and sensitivity of this assignment" and asked Walker to force the administration to give him the information that they had been requesting from the White House and Pentagon for months. This information includes some idea of how long the US plans to occupy Iraq and how much it will cost.
They also said they would do all they could to ensure that the investigators were allowed into Iraq as soon as possible.