Architect of the Capitol

Contractors Applaud House Vote to Kill Obama Fair Pay, Safe Workplace Rule

They cite "burdensome" paperwork and "blacklisting" of firms with past labor law violations.

Two major contracting groups hailed House passage on Thursday of a long-expected resolution to undo the Obama administration’s 2014 “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” order requiring contractors to report past violations of 14 labor laws.

House joint resolution 37, sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., declares that the implementation rule submitted in August by the Defense Department, General Services Administration, and NASA relating to the Federal Acquisition Regulation has no effect.

It passed 236-187 amid a series of votes using the 1996 Congressional Review Act to nullify regulations enacted in the past 60 days. (Other rules involved streams protection, land management royalties and Social Security rules on gun purchase background checks for people with mental disabilities.)

“We welcome the House action,” said David Berteau, president and CEO of the 400-member Professional Services Council, in a statement. “The blacklisting rule fails to provide companies with basic due process, imposes significant new and non-value added reporting requirements, and risks denying federal buyers access to the best private-sector providers to meet government needs. With the disapproval of this rule by the House, and we hope with prompt action by the Senate and then signature by the president, a significant overhang will be removed from the acquisition process.”

That view was echoed by the Associated Builders and Contractors, whose local affiliate had filed a successful court challenge to block the rule from taking effect last fall. That group “has vigorously fought the Obama administration’s illegal blacklisting rule, which would have treated frivolous accusations of wrongdoing as grounds to prohibit qualified contractors from performing federal work," said ABC Vice President of Regulatory, Labor and State Affairs Ben Brubeck.

House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot, R-Ohio, said the vote was necessary because “the blacklisting rule will force innocent small businesses to settle unproven claims, disclose commercially sensitive information to their competitors, and report information the federal government already has,” which ultimately forces small businesses to go under. 

But Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-Md., opposed rolling back the order, citing opposition from veterans, civil rights and business groups such as the American Industrial Hygiene Association. He warned that “Congress will be putting employees of federal contractors at greater risk of wage theft or unsafe working conditions” and that “law-abiding companies will be forced into unfair competition with lawbreakers.”