Will omnibus spending bill be done Monday?

Lawmakers are working on a continuing resolution to keep the government open until Monday and might extend it until Dec. 5 if they cannot agree on an omnibus spending bill in the next two days.

A Senate Appropriations Committee staff member said members hope to finish before Monday the omnibus bill, covering fiscal 2004 appropriations for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, Labor and State and the District of Columbia.

Some on the Hill, according to other reports, are considering extending the resolution to Dec. 5 and possibly well into December.

Meanwhile, the staff member said, lawmakers still are negotiating with the administration over language in the appropriations bill for Treasury, Transportation and other agencies that would change the revised rules for competing federal jobs with the private sector, under Office of Management and Budget Circular A-76.

Industry and White House officials disagree about a provision in the bill that would give federal employees or their appointee, including a union official, the right to protest an A-76 award before the General Accounting Office. The bill also includes language to extend a 10 percent or $10 million price differential to all competitions for 10 or more positions. (Click for Nov. 14 GCN story)

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, last week sent a letter to Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.) about the protest language. Davis said that although he does 'favor a reasonable expansion of right for federal employees involved in competitive sourcing studies,' the language is too broad.

Davis suggested allowing the agency official in charge of the bid to represent the employees before GAO.

'Davis counts the expansion of appeals rights as one of his top priorities in the competitive sourcing debate,' said David Marin, the Government Reform spokesman. 'He's said so dozens of times. I can't overstate how significant his support is'this is the first time these rights have been granted, and we're supporting it in statute.'

Marin added that Davis thinks the current approach of granting protest rights to the agency officials in charge of the employee bid is the most practical one.

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