End of the Line for 8(a)?

August 5, 1996

End of the Line for 8(a)?

Rep. Jan Meyers, R-Ind., has introduced a bill that would eliminate the Small Business Administration's federal contract set-asides for minority-owned companies under the 8(a) program.

The 8(a) program has been a prime target of House Republicans, especially since a Supreme Court ruling last year called into question the constitutionality of many federal affirmative action programs.

The Meyers bill comes in the wake of a strategic decision by leaders in the House of Representatives to focus on minority set-asides in federal contracting rather than on all federal affirmative action efforts. House leaders decided not to push for a bill introduced last year by Rep. Charles T. Canady, R-Fla., and then-Sen. Robert Dole, R-Kan., that would have prohibited the government from granting preferences on the basis of race, sex or national origin in any federal program.

An aide to House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., told The New York Times in mid-July that the House leadership was "leaning" toward throwing its support behind the Meyers bill.

The Meyers bill would strip the SBA of its ability to steer federal contracts to minority-owned businesses, The Wall Street Journal reported on Aug. 5, but it would allow the agency to continue to provide counseling and technical assistance to "economically disadvantaged" businesses, regardless of the owner's race.

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