WASHINGTON, D.C.—-In an unprecedented vote of 49-47, the U.S. Senate last night voted to halt the Bush Administration's effort to outsource the jobs of 1400 immigration information officers, contact representatives and immigration assistance employees in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The vote on an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill offered by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), marked the first time the Senate has joined the House of Representatives in enacting legislation against privatization.
"This vote marks a significant victory for the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) and the AFGE National Homeland Security Council," said AFGE National President John Gage. "Because the Bush Administration threatened to veto the entire Homeland Security Appropriations bill if the amendment was adopted, it took real courage for the Senate to pass this measure."
The measure accepted by the Senate should prevent the current stage of the outsourcing process, known as an A-76 competition, from going forward.
"In effect, the Administration had made clear that it would deny essential funding to homeland security efforts around the country in order to pursue its privatization and outsourcing agenda," said Charles Showalter, president of the AFGE National Homeland Security Council. "Thankfully, the Senate had the interests of the American people at heart when it voted on this measure."
In an earlier vote of 49-47, the Senate adopted an amendment by Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) that effectively gutted the amendment offered by Sens. Leahy and Nelson. However, after Sen. Leahy demanded a separate vote on his amendment, the measure passed. With the exception of Zell Miller of Georgia, all Democrats supported the Leahy Amendment. They were joined by Republicans Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Lincoln Chaffee of Rhode Island, Christopher Bond of Missouri, and Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine.
The bill now goes to a House/Senate conference so that the two appropriation measures can be reconciled.