Senate tries to put competition rules on earmark spending

Rule would apply equally to Congress and the president

Spending under "earmarks" in the Defense Department’s fiscal 2010 appropriations bill would have to be awarded under full and open competition under an amendment passed by the Senate.

Spending directed specifically by Congress “that is intended for award to a for-profit entity shall be subject to acquisition regulations for full and open competition on the same basis as each spending item intended for a for-profit entity that is contained in the budget request of the president,” according to an amendment offered Oct. 6 by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), chairman of the Appropriations Committee.

“This proposal applies the rules of the road equally to Congress and the president,” Inouye said. He added that, “It insures that all spending items that are funded in this bill, regardless of who proposed them, are subject to the same rules for competition.”

The amendment would allow for exemptions from the full-and-open competition in the case of pre-awarded contracts, small business set-aside contract, or for small procurements.

Inouye's amendment passed 71 to 21. The amendment refers to spending specifically in the fiscal 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (H.R. 3326). The bill would provide more than $636 billion in new discretionary spending for DOD.

The Senate passed the measure by 93 to 7. The House passed its version of the bill July 30. The House’s version has a variation of Inouye’s amendment. The difference is Inouye’s exemptions for pre-awarded contracts and small businesses.

Differences in the two bill will have to be worked out in a conference committee.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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