Capitol Hill Shocker: Bipartisanship in the House

Posted on June 6, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

By Scott Orr

In a rare moment of bipartisan unity, the House last week approved a $10.6 billion fiscal 2013 spending bill for military construction and veterans affairs that would boost veteran-owned businesses and encourage greener military facilities.

Still, it is hardly immune to the vagaries of election-year politics.

If approved by the Senate, the measure could set up a test of political will with the administration which has said the president will veto all spending measures that deviate from a deficit reduction plan agreed to by Democrats and Republicans last year. The threat applies to 12 spending bills for the federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1.

The measure passed on a 407-12 bipartisan vote with 179 democrats, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), backing the package.

The administration said cuts in excess of the $2 trillion total agreed to as part of last year’s Budget Control Act “would cost jobs and hurt average Americans.” Obama said the measure “would require harmful cuts to other critical priorities such as education, research and development, job training, and health care.”

The measure includes $71.7 billion in discretionary funding, the same as this year, but less than the administration request.

Some Democrats argued, with little zeal, that deviating from the agreement and the administration’s request would only slow down the appropriations process. They also criticized the measure for continuing a pay freeze for federal employees and contractors for the third straight year.

“Federal employees have already accepted two consecutive pay freezes with the knowledge that the savings would be applied toward meeting our nation’s fiscal challenges,” said Hoyer.

As part of the surprise showing of bipartisanship, the House agreed without debate on an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) that would give preferences in awarding contracts to veteran-owned small businesses.

While veteran-owned construction businesses got a boost, unionized contractors and workers were denied protections. Despite opposition from Democrats, the measure included language that would prevent funding for contracts that require project labor agreements. These agreements require construction projects be completed with union workers.

The House also happily agreed to an amendment from Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.) that would require the Pentagon to inventory its green buildings and one from Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) to add $10 million to the Pentagon’s Energy Conservation Program.

Blumenauer noted that the Defense Department uses more energy than his entire home state of Oregon. “I believe that the Pentagon and Congress have an obligation to taxpayers, who foot the Pentagon’s bill, to not only decrease the military’s overall level of energy consumption through efficiency efforts, but to move towards greater energy independence from Petro-Dictators,” he said.

It will be interesting to see if Obama will veto a measure that enjoys such bipartisan support.

Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said the bill meets the needs of the Pentagon and the Veterans Administration and should be signed.

“The bipartisan legislation that passed the House today provides our nation’s troops, veterans and military families with the programs and services they have earned as a result of their service and sacrifice,” Rogers said.

We agree.

Turner GPA is a leading D.C.-based national lobbying and government affairs firm dedicated to delivering cutting edge policy advocacy for the manufacturing, defense, aerospace, health and energy industries. Members of our professional policy team can be reached at (202) 466-2511. We are also on the Web at www.turnergpa.com.

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