McCaskill, Webb push contracting reform
A call for military contracting oversight, an appeal for votes and a sentimental journey brought two U.S. senators to St. Joseph Wednesday.
Democratic Sens. Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jim Webb of Virginia, both elected in 2006, found in each other a shared interest in addressing the enormous tax dollar waste in wartime contracting.
Ms. McCaskill chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight, which has identified $60 billion in waste and other mischief in contracts related to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
"It is one area where I think we really have turned the corner for accountability," she told a crowd of about 90 people at American Legion Post 359.
For Mr. Webb, who is not seeking a second term, the visit proved a chance to endorse his colleague's candidacy and talk about veterans' issues, as well as visit his childhood home.
The Virginia senator was born in St. Joseph in 1946, and his father worked as an electrician at Townsend and Wall Department Store.
When his father, who flew bombers in World War II, went back into the military, he often made pre-interstate highway drives from Illinois on weekends to spend one day with his family.
"When I come to St. Joe, I think back on the service of my father," said Mr. Webb, a Vietnam veteran whose son has gone to Iraq as a Marine. "I know what it's like to have a dad deployed, I know what it's like to have to go to war and I know what it's like to have to send a son to war. And I know what that does to the families."
On his first day in the Senate, he introduced legislation called the Post-9/11 GI Bill, aimed at providing educational opportunities and job training for veterans of this century's wars. It became law in 2009.
"I swore that if I did nothing else when I was in the United States Senate, we would pass that GI Bill," said Mr. Webb, secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. "Claire McCaskill was one of the first co-sponsors."
Military veterans who have served since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 get payments for college tuition, books and fees, plus getting a monthly stipend.
Sens. McCaskill and Webb, who sit next to one another on the chamber's Armed Services Committee, have advocated for reforms that lead to more transparency and competition in military contracting. This year, they jointly introduced the Comprehensive Contingency Contracting Reform Act, which would, among other things, decrease reliance on no-bid contracts.
The Missouri senator introduced her colleague as "like a professor who's not afraid of a bar fight." She added, "I mean that as a positive thing."
Ms. McCaskill is running against Republican Congressman Todd Akin in the November general election. Libertarian Jonathan Dine is also in the race.
After the event, the senators boarded Ms. McCaskill's campaign RV for a drive to Mr. Webb's childhood home at 3137 Felix St. He wanted to look for a handprint he left in a concrete step at the side of the house.
After getting permission from the resident of the house, the senator looked for the marking made about six decades earlier and thought he saw the well-worn outline.