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Senate Strikes Federal Contracting Changes

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

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Congress has moved to strike a rule that would have required contractors bidding on federal projects to disclose civil, administrative and workplace protection violations.

In a close vote, 49-48, the Senate passed H.J. Res. 37 on Monday (March 6). The House approved the measure in February. Under the Congressional Review Act, the bill invalidates the so-called “blacklisting” rule.

U.S. Capitol Building
Screen shot via live cam

Lawmakers have voted to repeal a rule regarding federal contracting using a rare legislative tool.

Now, the measure awaits President Donald Trump’s signature.

The Hill reports that the decision to sign may not be easy as the president can either “side with his party on regulatory reform or stick up for the working-class voters who helped elect him in November.”

In a plea to President Trump, Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said, “You are not going to get away with constantly saying you’re in favor of working people, but signing legislation that hurts them,” according to the report.

Some industry groups have applauded the swift congressional action on the controversial measure.

"Congress has wisely voted to preserve the integrity and fairness of the federal contracting process by voting to repeal former President Obama's blacklisting rule,” Stephen Sandherr, Association of General Contractors CEO said in a statement.

“To be clear, there should be no place in federal contracting for unsafe or unscrupulous firms. Yet the former President's measure did nothing to reform or improve the existing suspension and debarment process."

Controversial Order

Originally set to go into effect Oct. 25, 2016, the rule would have required businesses seeking federal contracts over $500,000 to disclose not only civil and administrative proceedings against them, but also violations of any of the 14 listed workplace protections in the past three years.

A legal challenge of the rule, which was first issued in July 2014 and amended in 2016, had resulted in a preliminary delay in the rule’s initial effective date.

The final rule was based on President Barack Obama’s Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order and was meant to “ensure contractors who don’t follow the rules aren’t rewarded with federal contracts, and those who do are given a fair chance.”

Official White House Photo

President Obama signed the Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces Executive Order in July 2014.

The labor law violations that were to be disclosed, according to the new rule, include those related to: wage and hour laws, including the Davis-Bacon Act; health and safety rules; collective bargaining; family and medical leave; and civil rights protections, including the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Opponents of the measure said it would result in blacklisting companies, as contracting officials would be able to take contractors’ reported violations into consideration in awarding bids.

The legislative tool employed to roll back this rule was last successful under President George W. Bush.


Tagged categories: Bidding; Business matters; Good Technical Practice; Government; Government contracts; Laws and litigation; North America; Regulations

Comment from Gregory Stoner, (3/9/2017, 8:43 AM)

Should we be surprised that Congress would so quickly change a rule that penalizes bad behavior.

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