House undeterred by veto threat

A White House veto threat has not prevented the House from voting this week to include language that would hamper parts of the President’s Management Agenda in a spending bill.

For the third year in a row, House lawmakers have approved an amendment offered by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) that would restrict competitive sourcing in federal agencies.

By a vote of 222-203, House members attached the Van Hollen language as part of the House Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill. The bill would prohibit agencies from using a revised Office of Management and Budget circular that governs competitive sourcing. The rules governing competition over federal workforce jobs underwent extensive revision in 2003 following pressure from Congress and federal worker unions.

Under the Van Hollen amendment, the old circular for competitive sourcing could still be used, but the intent is to force a second re-write of the circular, ending “the administration's ideologically-driven agenda to benefit private contractors over federal employees and taxpayers,” Van Hollen said in a written statement.

In previous years, Van Hollen’s language has been blocked in conference committee.

House lawmakers also approved an amendment, by Rep. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), that would reverse the results of a competitive sourcing bid worth $1.9 billion at the Federal Aviation Administration, which Lockheed Martin won earlier this year. The amendment passed 238-177.

Other measures singled out for White House displeasure that became part of the House-approved bill include a budget cut to the Office of Personnel Management. In the report that accompanied the House Appropriations Committee markup, lawmakers said $2.6 million of the cut should come from funding slated for creating a new governmentwide personnel system. Extending governmentwide some of the civil service reforms undertaken in the Homeland Security and Defense departments has been a top presidential management priority.

A provision that would have allowed agencies to bypass OPM and create their independent Web hiring systems was struck out during House proceedings, however.

A section that OMB officials have said would limit e-government was approved. Section 943 of the bill prohibits cross-agency transfers of funds or reimbursements for e-government projects until after OMB submit to the appropriations committee a report detailing the amount of money involved, the specific use of those funds, as well as “a description on any such activities for which funds were appropriated that will not be implemented or partially implemented by the department or agency as a result of the transfer.”

That section requires “congressional committee approval before Executive Branch execution,” and therefore violates the Supreme Court ruling that overturned the legislative veto, INS v. Chadha, the White House statement says.

Not included in the White House veto threat was $2 million reduction to e-government fund. The reduced amount of $3 million went unchallenged on the House floor.

With Thursday’s passage of the Transportation-Treasury bill, the House has approved all 10 of its appropriations subcommittee fiscal 2006 spending bills. The Senate, which has 12 subcommittee bills to pass, has so far voted or passed by unanimous consent three of them.

About the Author

David Perera is a special contributor to Defense Systems.

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