House votes against revised A-76 rules

In a double blow to President Bush, the House voted to eliminate funding for the administration's revised competitive sourcing rules when it approved the $89.3 billion 2004 Transportation/Treasury spending bill on Tuesday. The Senate has yet to vote on its version of the bill.

The House also voted for a federal civilian pay raise equal to that of the military.

Competitive sourcing is a key component to the President's Management Agenda to streamline government. Even if targeted jobs stay in-house, the administration has said that the competition process will result in increased government efficiency and lower costs.

An amendment offered by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) blocked any funds to support the Office of Management and Budget's A-76 accelerated privatization process but allows it to revert to the previous process until A-76 is revised.

'Federal employees are more than willing to submit to a competitive process, but they shouldn't be asked to do it with one hand tied behind their backs,' Van Hollen said in a statement.

Opponents to the revision say the rules favor contractors over government workers. The accelerated privatization process doesn't allow federal employees to submit their best bids or require contractors to at least promise appreciable savings, Van Hollen said. It also required federal employees, but not contractors, to be subject to competition in order to acquire new work and to retain existing work, he said.

Following the vote, OMB said it was committed to the revised competitive sourcing process.

"The House said it wanted to return to the old fashioned competitive sourcing process that's slow and burdensome, where there's no accountability for a fair, balanced process, where there's no guarantee that a competition will result in better value for thetaxpayer, and where direct conversions are allowed," said Clay Johnson, OMB depurty director of management.

If a final bill reaches the president's desk without funds for competitive sourcing, the president's advisers would recommend that he veto the bill, the Office of Management and Budget said.

The House vote also rejected Bush's two-tier pay raise scale, one for the military and one for civilian federal employees, opting instead for parity. Bush proposed a 2 percent pay raise for civilians and 4.1 percent for military. The House established 4.1 percent for both.

The 4.1 percent pay raise for civilian employees exceeds the average private-sector increase and would not allow the administration to target pay raises to attract certain employees with critical skills, the OMB also said in its statement.

Meanwhile, the Senate, during debate over the Labor/Health and Human Services/Education spending bill, voted today to bar the Bush administration from issuing new overtime rules. The new labor rules would have expanded overtime to some low-income workers who had not been previously eligible and eliminate overtime pay to some white-collar workers who had been eligible. The rules would not have affected employees under union contract. The House previously approved the new rules.

(Posted 1:14 p.m. Sept. 10. Updated 9:47 a.m. Sept. 11)


About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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