Opposition grows to bill revamping GPO

Opposition to a bill overhauling the Government Printing Office mounted last week as opponents complained to the bill's Senate sponsors, saying it will turn back the clock on procurement reform, expand the reach of GPO and cost taxpayers more money [FCW, July 20].

Reaction to the bill, named for Sen. Wendell H. Ford of Kentucky, who will retire at the end of the current session, increased after the Senate Rules Committee heard testimony from supporters only.

The Coalition for Government Procurement, the Defense Automated Printing Service, the Congressional Accountability Project and the Office of Budget and Management spoke out against the bill after the hearing that appeared to shut out opposing voices.

Donald R. Arbuckle, acting administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within OMB, was crossed off the list of witnesses on Thursday when the committee invoked a rule requiring that testimony be submitted at least 24 hours before a hearing.

The committee informed OMB that it was too late when OMB turned in a written version of the testimony that Arbuckle planned to deliver in opposition of the bill— a move that caught OMB off guard.

Arbuckle's testimony criticized the bill, saying it contradicts the efforts of the Clinger-Cohen Act of 1996 to abolish centralized bureaucratic structures.

The bill "attempts to shore up a failing Government Printing Office by enhancing its powers and authorities over the agencies," and it would create an unwarranted central management structure for printing that would be a burden on taxpayers, Arbuckle said.

Other opposition came in the form of a letter from the Coalition for Government Procurement to Rules Committee chairman Sen. John Warner (R-Va.). The coalition said the bill would undo improvements in government buying resulting from Clinger-Cohen and other procurement reforms.

"It would enforce the centralization of publication/dissemination operations into a government-unique bureaucracy," Edward L. Allen, executive director of the coalition, said in the letter.

Supporters, including librarians, printing industry officials and OMB Watch, hail the bill for asserting GPO's authority over electronic dissemination of publications and for expanding the scope of the depository library program, which ensures public access to government publications.

Senate passage of the bill in the current session is a "doable" proposition, Ford said after the hearing.

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