House and Senate Prepare to Undo Obama Contractor Rule

The Grant Memorial at the U.S. Capitol. The Grant Memorial at the U.S. Capitol. Architect of the U.S. Capitol

Leaders in both the House and Senate on Monday made good on past pledges and introduced a joint resolution to block former President Obama’s “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” rule that the Republicans call a “blacklisting” of legitimate federal contractors.

Obama’s 2014 executive order, intended to force contractors to disclose past accusations of violations of 14 labor laws, was blocked by a court in October, two months after his Labor Department finalized its implementation rules. Many in the contracting community oppose the rule.

The joint resolution of disapproval as drafted would rely on the rarely used 1996 Congressional Review Act. With a Republican in the White House, such resolutions are more likely to become law.

Republicans argue that the rule holds federal agencies to a different, lesser standard, empowering them agencies to deny contracts for “alleged” violations of various federal labor laws, setting a startling precedent that employers are guilty until proven innocent, they said in a statement.

"Because this rule lacks basic due process, innocent firms could potentially be blackmailed by using the threat of being blacklisted,” said Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. “As a result, this grossly unfair rule must be repealed."

“When the federal government contracts with small businesses, the taxpayer saves and communities across the country benefit,” said Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Small Business Committee. “That’s why the ‘blacklisting’ rule hurts everyone, especially our small business job creators who have played by the rules. At the Small Business Committee, we’ve heard specific, first-hand accounts of how this rule has killed jobs.”

Also on Monday, an alliance of 124 consumer, health and labor groups sent a letter urging Congress to table the Congressional Review Act that Republicans plan to invoke to undo many Obama rules.

“Voters in this election did not vote for deregulation of Wall Street, more polluted air and water, inaction on climate change, unsafe workplaces, fewer protections against discrimination and unequal pay, more food safety scandals, the gutting of consumer protections and more,” said the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards. “In fact, this election was a referendum on the need to hold big interests accountable.”

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