THE OCTOBER SURPRISE (House of Representatives - November 18, 1991)

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(Mr. McEWEN asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute, to revise and extend his remarks, and to include extraneous material.)

Mr. McEWEN. Mr. Speaker, it is not on the schedule this week, but I would say to my colleagues, rest assured that sometime when we are working hard late one evening dealing with the banking bill or the conference report on public works on some other legislation, after the newspapers have focused on some real dramatic action that day, then there is going to be a request to bring up the October surprise.

No one knows about it yet, no announcement yet, but rest assured it is going to happen. This is the ultimate political shenanigans that this House has ever engaged in.

Mr. Speaker, the New Republic reporter, Stephen Emerson, the investigator for Frank Church, has called this: `All of the sources that were used by the journalists thus far are absolute and proven fabricators,' probably one of the largest hoaxes and fabrications in modern American journalism.

When the GAO testified before the Committee on Rules as to what these characters were charging about the October surprise, that somehow or another Ronald Reagan went to Madrid and made a deal with the Iranians, or some such thing, I asked him, I said, `Is there anything in these charges that made sense, anything that you could corroborate, like the day or the time or the place or the people, anything at all, anything at all,' the response was they could find absolutely nothing that coordinated with anything that these folks had said.

Yet the Congress of the United States is going to be asked to provide millions of dollars to investigate these crazy charges.

I suggest we do at least four things: First of all, we should combine with the Senate; second, we should put a limit, just as the Senate did; third, we should investigate the arms-for-hostages deals that were being offered at the time by the Carter administration; and fourth, we should put a limit on how much money should be spent.

I will include a letter from the Congressional Budget Office saying it is going to cost millions of dollars.

Mr. Speaker, this is unbecoming of the House, it is unbecoming of the leadership around here, it is a disservice to America, and we really should not be associated with it.

The text of the letter is as follows:

Congressional Budget Office,
Washington, DC, November 8, 1991.

Hon. John Joseph Moakley,
Chairman, Committee on Rules, U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC.

Dear Mr. Chairman: The Congressional Budget Office has reviewed H. Res. 258, a resolution creating a task force of members of the Foreign Affairs Committee to investigate certain allegations concerning the holding of Americans as hostages by Iran in 1980, as ordered reported by the House Committee on Rules on November 7, 1991. We estimate that implementation of this resolution would cost between $1.2 million and $2.5 million, which would be paid from appropriated accounts over fiscal years 1992 and 1993. Of this amount, $750,000 to $1.5 million would be the cost of staff currently working elsewhere in the Federal Government that would be detailed to the task force. The remaining $500,000 to $1 million would be spent by the task force and would come from the funds that would otherwise be available for other House committee expenses. This resolution does not affect direct spending or receipts. Therefore, pay-as-you-go procedures would not apply to the bill.

H. Res. 258 would create a task force to investigate the timing of the release of American hostages in Iran in 1980. The task force would be authorized to hold hearings, take depositions, conduct interviews, and request assistance of any Federal Agency. The chairman could hire the necessary staff to conduct the task force's operations. Finally, the resolution would authorize the expenses of the task force, including the procurement of services for consultants and training of staff, to be paid from the contingent fund of the House. The task force would have to provide an interim report by July 1, 1992, and would expire at the end of the 102d Congress.

Because the nature and extent of the task force's work is still uncertain at this time, it is difficult to estimate its costs with any precision. One way to gauge the potential magnitude of the cost is to examine a recent temporary congressional investigation with similar responsibilities--the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran--which operated in 1987 and 1988. Information from the select committee's report and from the Clerk of the House shows that the select committee had about 80 employees and spent a total of $2.2 million over its life.

However, about half of the committee's staff consisted of personnel detailed from other committees members' personal staffs, or Federal Agencies. The committee did not record costs for those employees because they continued to receive salaries from their original employers and either stopped working temporarily at their original agency or had to work more hours to provide services to the committee.

Based on information from the Committee on Foreign Affairs, which would set up the task force, it appears that the task force is unlikely to cost more than the House Iran/Contra investigation. Preliminary indications are that the task force would require less staff--probably 10 to 20 detailed from other assignments, and perhaps 10 new employees requiring salaries that are not already being paid. If the task force produces information necessitating intensive investigations, personnel costs could increase. The magnitude of the cost would depend largely on whether the task force hires outside counsel, and whether such counsel receives a salary from the House or is paid by the hour. The task force's use of consultants also could increase costs. CBO estimates that the task force would spend between $500,000 and $1 million, mostly in fiscal year 1992. Some costs would be incurred in 1993 for finishing up the task force's work. In addition, the 10 to 20 employees detailed to the task force would represent another $750,000 to $1.5 million of resources applied to the task force's work rather than the work of the employing agency.

The task force would have to request its funds from the Committee on House Administration, which would allocate funds from amounts already appropriated for committee expenses of the House in 1992. The salaries of personnel detailed to the task force from other House offices and Federal Agencies would be paid from amounts already appropriated for 1992. In both cases, the expenses of the task force would represent a reallocation of funds that otherwise would have been spent on other activities in 1992 unless a supplemental appropriations is provided.

Enactment of this resolution would not affect the budgets of State of local government.

If you wish further details on this estimate, we will be pleased to provide them. The CBO staff contact is James Hearn, who can be reached at 226-2860.


Robert F. Hale
(for Robert D. Reischauer, Director).

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