With Dems in charge, observers expect labor issues to take center stage

Originally posted Nov. 8 at 1:14 PM and updated Nov. 8 at 4:25 PM

(UPDATED) President Bush’s competitive-sourcing initiative could be under heavy scrutiny now that the Democrats have taken over at least one house of Congress, congressional observers have said.

This means that the White House’s e-government effort will likely sit on the back burner, the observers said, although they noted that much of the congressional opposition to the initiative has come from within the president’s own party.

“There’s a lot of people in both [the House and Senate] that have been very skeptical of e-government,” said Cathy Garman, senior vice president of public policy at the Contract Services Association trade group. “That [opposition] has come from both parties and will continue” under the new Congress.

Instead, labor issues, like competitive sourcing and OMB Circular A-76, will likely take center stage, especially if the Democrats take both the House and Senate, observers said.

With Rep. Henry Waxman (R-Calif.) expected to be the new chairman of the influential Government Reform Committee — replacing Tom Davis (R-Va.), who will likely be the new ranking member — observers expect heavy oversight of the White House’s management agenda, with labor being a key focus.

“There’s some new conservative Democrats coming in, but the more liberal Democrats that are taking committee heads have always been pro-labor,” said Alan Webber, senior consultant with Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. “It’s payback time.”

Larry Allen, executive vice president of the Coalition for Government Procurement, an industry association in Washington, agreed and said that he would not be surprised if the Democratically controlled House tried to pass legislation limiting the use of competitive sourcing.

“Its entirely possible that you will get legislation that has been introduced before, but not enacted, may actually become enacted now that would restrict competitive sourcing,” he said. “On that front, you would see the President wield his veto pen.”

The Democratic takeover is coming after the White House this year has redoubled its efforts to win Hill support for its competitive-sourcing agenda this year. In an early-October report, OMB said agencies are having considerable success in competing for jobs under public-private competitions.

OMB has also said that by outsourcing nongovernment functions, agencies can save taxpayer money and better focus their time and resources on their missions.

Officials in Waxman’s office were not immediately available for comment.

John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement that the election results were a major positive for labor issues.

“This is ... a great victory for veterans, retirees and the tens of millions of Americans who rely on the public services that have been underfunded, understaffed and cut to the bone or outsourced,” Gage said.

Roseanne Gerin, staff writer for GCN’s sister publication Washington Technology, contributed to this story.

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