Bush to reinstate contractor wage law in Gulf Coast states

The Bush administration will reinstate the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law Nov. 8 in Louisiana, Mississippi and selected other counties where President Bush suspended it in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, lawmakers said Wednesday after a White House meeting.

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said White House Chief of Staff Card told the lawmakers about the decision. "We thought it was bad policy and bad politics, and I guess they accepted our argument," King told the Associated Press. King was part of a group led by Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio -- co-chairmen of the Republican Working Group on Labor -- that met with Card.

Bush in September suspended provisions of the 1931 law, which sets wages for employees on federal contracts. While the administration contended the move would cut rebuilding costs and open opportunities to minority-owned companies, unions and other critics said it would result in lower pay for workers.

The announcement prompted the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to postpone its scheduled consideration today of a resolution co-sponsored by LoBiondo and LaTourette calling for disclosure of all hurricane-related federal contracts.

"I suggested to the White House that they give us a time [when the act will be reinstated] or reinstate it," Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, said after postponing the vote.

Young said if the administration had not relented, he would have brought the resolution to a vote next week and that it "absolutely" would have passed.

Democrats have introduced legislation in the House and Senate to overturn Bush's suspension of the law. Meanwhile, a Congressional Research Service report Tuesday questioned whether Bush's proclamation waiving the law was valid, since it was issued without a declaration of national emergency.

"A strong argument could be made that the proclamation does not comply with the NEA's requirements," said the CRS report, referring to the National Emergencies Act. But the report is inconclusive, stating that although there was no declaration of emergency, "the proclamation ... would appear to generally satisfy the act's substantive and procedural requirements."

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