House panel buries co-op buying plans

Proponents of cooperative purchasing suffered yet another defeat last week when a proposal to allow state and local governments to buy information technology products and services from General Services Administration schedule contracts was defeated during a markup by the House Appropriations Committee.

Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) last week proposed an amendment to the House appropriations bill that would have allowed cooperative purchasing for "general purpose ADP equipment software supplies and support equipment."

The amendment was defeated in favor of language previously passed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Treasury Postal and General Government calling for a total repeal of all cooperative purchasing.

A spokesman for Moran said the amendment was defeated due to lobbying by some IT companies that were opposed to cooperative purchasing. "A number of members were swayed by the arguments of some of the big technology firms " the spokesman said.

Despite the spokesman's assertion that a few IT companies opposed cooperative purchasing most of the industry appears to have supported it. A July 30 letter to Moran from Rhett Dawson president of the Information Technology Industry Council said the amendment "strikes a fair and reasonable balance between the various competing interests that are engaged in the current debate on this matter."

"Although ITI has consistently supported broader implementation of cooperative purchasing we are willing to accept the restrictions contained in your amendment " Dawson wrote.

Representatives from other IT industry associations such as the Information Technology Association of America and the Coalition for Government Procurement also have endorsed the idea of allowing state and local government customers to buy desktop technology products from GSA.

The idea was advocated last month by Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee who forwarded language similar to Moran's to members of the House Treasury Postal Appropriations subcommittee. Burton's language was never considered by the subcommittee which instead adopted an amendment prohibiting cooperative purchasing of any product.

A source close to Burton said the chairman would oppose the subcommittee's language when the bill comes to the House floor after Congress recesses. He said Burton would use his authority as chairman of the authorization committee to delete the appropriations committee's language.

"He will not sign off on the language " the source said. "If a total repeal of cooperative purchasing is left in the House bill when it comes up on the floor that section will be left exposed and will be stricken from the record."

Although Burton's maneuver could potentially clear the way for all types of cooperative purchasing it would accomplish nothing if House and Senate conferees voted to restore the prohibition.

In addition Moran may again propose his amendment when the bill comes to the House floor according to his spokesman. "This issue is not dead " he asserted.

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