1. Army Corps of Engineers/OMB Circular A-76 (Vote #506)
AFGE opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to the FY 2008 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bill (H.R. 2641) to strike Section 105, a provision that prohibits any appropriated funds from being used to conduct a public-private competition or direct conversion under OMB Circular A-76 for any Army Corps of Engineers (CoE) program, project or activity.
Section 105 is necessary because:
(a) The CoE should not be forced to conduct costly OMB Circular A-76 studies merely to fulfill numerical privatization quotas imposed by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). According to agency sources, there are 3,500 - 4,000 agency job positions left on the original OMB quota for CoE.
(b) OMB-dictated quotas have forced the CoE to review for privatization obviously inherently governmental work, such as the operation and maintenance of locks and dams.
(c) An A-76 privatization review of CoE information technology positions was a complete mess. Begun in June 2004, the privatization review of 1,100 employees in almost 50 different locations lasted almost three years. According to a late 2006 GovExec.com story, “Information technology management at the Army Corps of Engineers is being stressed to the breaking point by staff shortages resulting from a stalled public-private job competition.”
The House rejected the Sessions amendment, 164-259, on June 19, 2007. A “No” vote in opposition to the Sessions amendment was counted as a “Right” vote.
2. Exclusion of Employee Benefit Costs/Establishment of Equitable Appeal Rights/OMB Circular A-76 (Vote #586)
AFGE opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) to the FY 2008 Financial Services Appropriations bill (H.R. 2829) to strike Section 738, a provision that makes important reforms to public-private competitions conducted under OMB Circular A-76.
Section 738 provides that:
(a) Health care and retirement costs are excluded from the contracting out cost comparison process for all non-Department of Defense (DoD) agencies when a contractor contributes less towards its employees’ benefit package than that which is required of federal agencies by Congress for federal employees.
(b) Federal employees in all federal agencies have the same appeal rights long enjoyed by contractors to have agencies’ adverse contracting out decisions reviewed by independent third parties at the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Court of Federal Claims (CFC).
The House rejected the Price amendment, 158-268, on June 28, 2007. A “No” vote in opposition to the Price amendment was counted as a “Right” vote.
3. Department of Labor/OMB Circular A-76 (Vote #646)
AFGE opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to the FY 2008 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations bill (H.R. 3093) to strike Section 111.
Section 111 prohibits the use of CJS funds to carry out a public-private competition or direct conversion under OMB Circular A-76 at the Department of Labor (DOL) until 60 days after the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provides a report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the use of competitive sourcing at the DOL.
While speaking on the House floor in opposition to the Sessions amendment, Rep. David Obey (D-WI), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, argued that “it is time to take a step back and examine how the [competitive sourcing] process is working [at DOL].” According to Chairman Obey, there are questions that need to be answered about: (a) the effectiveness of the competitive sourcing process at DOL with regard to cost savings or increased efficiency, and (2) the DOL “not taking proper care to assure that functions that ought to be considered inherently governmental are excluded from these [public-private] competitions.”
The House rejected the Sessions amendment, 173-251, on July 17, 2007. A “No” vote in opposition to the Sessions amendment was counted as a “Right” vote.
4. Bureau of Prisons/OMB Circular A-76 (Vote #729)
AFGE opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to the FY 2008 Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) Appropriations bill (H.R. 3093) to strike Section 213, a provision that prohibits the use of CJS funds for public-private competitions under OMB Circular A-76 for work performed by federal correctional officers and other federal employees at the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) or Federal Prison Industries (FPI).
Section 213 is necessary because competing BOP and FPI positions would not promote the best interests of the federal government with regard to ensuring the safety and security of federal prisons. Federal correctional officers and other federal employees who work for BOP and FPI are performing at superior levels. It therefore would be ill-advised to compete their positions merely to meet the numerical quotas of the Bush administration’s privatization scheme.
In addition, studies conducted by Julianne Nelson, Ph.D for the National Institute of Corrections and the BOP that compare the costs of federally operated low- and minimum-security institutions with those of privately operated prisons have concluded (using OMB Circular A-76 cost methodology) that the federally operated prisons are more cost effective than their private counterparts.
The House rejected the Sessions amendment, 162-267, on July 25, 2007. A “No” vote in opposition to the Sessions amendment was counted as a “Right” vote.
5. Department of Agriculture/OMB Circular A-76 (Vote #803)
AFGE opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to the FY 2008 Agriculture Appropriations bill (H.R. 3161) to strike language from the bill prohibiting the use of funds by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Chief Financial Officer for competitive sourcing activities until the USDA Secretary submits a report on the Department’s contracting out policies and budget to the House Appropriations and Government Reform Committees.
While speaking on the House floor in opposition to the Sessions amendment, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, stated that “the language that we have included in the bill…simply aims to establish a much-needed oversight on the related costs to contracting out…..The fact is that we need to exercise our responsibility. We all know that the [Bush] administration’s guidelines for public-private competitions, OMB Circular A-76, have long favored contractors and stacked the deck against federal employees.”
The House rejected the Sessions amendment, 168-254, on August 2, 2007. A “No” vote in opposition to the Sessions amendment was counted as a “Right” vote.
6. Department of Defense/OMB Circular A-76 (Vote #838)
AFGE opposed an amendment offered by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) to the FY 2008 Defense Appropriations bill (H.R. 3222) to strike Section 8020, a provision that prohibits the bill’s funds from being used to perform any study pursuant to OMB Circular A-76 if the study being performed exceeds 24 months and concerns a single function activity or 30 months and concerns a multi-function activity.
All defense appropriations bills since FY 1998 have included a provision that limits how long an OMB Circular A-76 privatization review can last. Since FY 2004, a multi-function A-76 study can last no longer than 30 months, while a single function A-76 study can last no longer than 24 months. The reason for these limitations is that it is in nobody’s interest to allow privatization reviews to run on and on – except maybe the consultants who bill taxpayers by the hour. The longer the studies last, the more they cost to conduct. And the more they cost, the less likely they are to achieve any savings, however speculative.
The House rejected the Sessions amendment, 148-259, on August 5, 2007. A “No” vote in opposition to the Sessions amendment was counted as a “Right” vote.
7. Employee Free Choice Act of 2007 (Vote #118)
AFGE supported the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) of 2007 (H.R. 800), a bill designed to strengthen and expand the American middle class by restoring workers’ freedom to organize and collectively bargain under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
EFCA consists of three basic provisions:
(a) Certification of a union as the bargaining representative if the National Labor Relations Board finds that a majority of employees in an appropriate unit has signed valid authorizations designating the union as its bargaining representative;
(b) If an employer and a union are engaged in bargaining for their first contract and are unable to reach agreement within 90 days, either party may refer the dispute to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service (FMCS) for mediation. If the FMCS has been unable to bring the parties to agreement after 30 days of mediation, the dispute will be referred to arbitration and the results of the arbitration shall be binding on the parties for two years; and
(c) Tougher penalties for violations of the NLRA committed by employers against employees during any period while employees are attempting to organize a union or negotiate a first contract agreement.
The House passed the EFCA legislation, 241-185, on March 1, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of EFCA was counted as a “Right” vote.
8. Federal Minimum Wage Increase (Vote #18)
AFGE supported the passage of the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007 (H.R. 2), a “clean” bill designed to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 an hour over two years without providing another round of tax breaks to the business community.
H.R. 2’s minimum wage increase is necessary to ensure once more that a family of four with a parent working full time at minimum wage does not have to raise its children in poverty. The $2.10 increase means an additional $4,200 in annual earnings for a full-time minimum wage worker. It also automatically triggers $1,140 in increases in the family’s Earned Income Tax Credit and refundable Child Tax Credit, enough to roughly offset the decrease in the family’s food stamp benefits resulting from the increase in the family’s cash income (due to the minimum wage increase.) As a result, the family is lifted 5 percent above the poverty line in 2009, instead of being 11 percent below the poverty line, as it would be if the federal minimum wage were not increased.
At the same time, H.R. 2 does not include new business tax breaks primarily because there is little reason to do so. President Bush and the majority of House Republicans argued that business tax cuts were necessary to offset the alleged adverse effects of the federal minimum wage increase on small businesses and low-wage workers. But an early 2007 Gallup Poll found that 86 percent of small business owners did not think the minimum wage adversely affected their businesses, and 75% of small business owners said that an increase in the minimum wage would have no effect on their companies. In addition, studies by Professors David Card and Alan Krueger have demonstrated that minimum wage increases do not necessarily result in employment losses for low-wage workers.
The House passed the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2007, 315-116, on January 10, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of H.R. 2 was counted as a “Right” vote.
However, the Senate Democratic leadership quickly found that the majority they held was too slim to follow the House’s example. Getting the 60 votes necessary to overcome an expected Republican filibuster would be impossible without adding to the federal minimum wage bill some kind of business tax break package.
So the Senate attached to the federal minimum wage bill a package of $8.3 billion in business tax breaks. In response, the House passed a new federal minimum wage bill (H.R. 976) that included $1.3 billion in tax breaks.
The difference between the tax break plans left the House and Senate at odds for weeks, a logjam broken when Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, agreed on a $4.84 billion version of the tax break package. But Republicans objected, turning a House-Senate divide into a partisan Democratic-Republican split.
Eventually, the Senate and House on May 24, 2007, approved the federal minimum wage increase – accompanied by the $4.8 billion package of business tax breaks – as part of the FY 2007 Iraq Supplemental Appropriations bill (P.L. 110-28).
9. State Children’s Health Insurance Program/Veto Override (Vote #982)
AFGE supported the override of President Bush’s veto of the conference agreement to reauthorize and expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) (H.R. 976), a valuable program that would provide access to health insurance to millions of low- and middle-income children.
SCHIP is a joint federal-state program under which the federal government provides funding to states to provide health insurance to families with children. The program is designed to cover uninsured children in families with incomes that are modest but too high to qualify for Medicaid.
This SCHIP legislation, which was supported on a bipartisan basis, would have increased funding to $60 million over five years, which is $35 million more than current spending. This funding increase would have enabled states to maintain their existing coverage of 6.6 million children while expanding coverage to an additional 3.8 million children.
Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed the bipartisan SCHIP legislation on October 3, 2007. In his veto message, President Bush argued that a veto was necessary because the bill included provisions that would provide SCHIP coverage to middle-income children -- those children whose family income exceeds 250% of the poverty level. But what he ignored is that many middle-class families clearly need help today in the wake of cutbacks in employer-based health insurance. A recent analysis of census data by Urban Institute researchers found that the number of uninsured children jumped by a startling 710,000 in 2006. Almost half of the increase was in families with incomes between 200% and 399% above the poverty level – the very group President Bush seemed to believe is adequately insured and in no need for SCHIP coverage.
President Bush also implicitly criticized the SCHIP bill’s $35 billion funding increase when he pointed out that his FY 2008 budget proposed an increase of $5 billion spread over the next five years. But what he didn’t say was that this paltry sum is not even enough to provide continued coverage for all of the children who are currently enrolled, let alone enroll millions more uninsured children.
The House failed to override President Bush’s veto of the SCHIP legislation, 273-156, on October 18, 2007. (A House veto override requires a two-thirds majority, or 281 votes.) A “Yes” vote to override President Bush’s veto was counted as a “Right” vote.
10. Medicare Prescription Drug Prices (Vote #23)
AFGE supported passage of the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007 (H.R. 4).
H.R. 4 would allow the federal government to use the buying power of millions of Medicare beneficiaries and negotiate with pharmaceutical and insurance companies to lower drug prices. The 2003 Medicare Modernization Act, which established Medicare Part D for prescription drug coverage, prohibits the federal government from negotiating for lower drug prices.
The House approved the Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act of 2007, 255-170, on January 12, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of H.R. 4 was counted as a “Right” vote.
11. Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 (Vote #1081)
AFGE supported passage of the Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007 (H.R. 3996), a bill intended to provide 23 million middle-income households with $50 billion in tax relief for 2007 by protecting them from the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT).
The AMT was created in 1969 to ensure that the highest-income households could not exploit loopholes, exclusions, and deductions to avoid paying any federal income tax. The AMT acts as a stop-gap tax system, with taxpayers owing their regular income tax or AMT liability, whichever is higher.
Unfortunately, the AMT is beginning to adversely affect a rapidly increasing number of middle-income households because the AMT was never indexed for inflation, and because the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts substantially lowered taxpayers’ liability under the regular income tax without changing the AMT structure.
House Republicans voted against H.R. 3996 primarily because it offset the cost of providing middle-class households with tax relief from the AMT by closing tax loopholes that benefit private equity firms and hedge funds, allowing the very wealthiest households to enjoy tax rates lower than those paid by middle-income households and, in some cases, to deter federal taxes indefinitely.
The House passed the Temporary Tax Relief Act of 2007, 216-193, on November 9, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of H.R. 3996 was counted as a “Right” vote.
12. FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations/Veto Override (Vote #1122)
AFGE supported the override of President Bush’s veto of the conference agreement on the FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill (H.R. 3043), a bill that would have provided substantial funding increases in a number of key areas that benefit working families – such as job training, education, health care, child care, and services for the elderly.
The conference agreement increased the Labor-HHS-Education budget by $5.2 billion, or 3.5%, over the FY 2007 level adjusted for inflation. In so doing, lawmakers rejected President Bush’s proposal to cut the Labor-HHS-Education budget by $6.7 billion, or 4.5%, below the FY 2007 level adjusted for inflation.
Unfortunately, President Bush vetoed this Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations agreement on November 13, 2007. The president claimed that his veto stemmed from a concern about the bill’s “fiscally irresponsible” $6 billion increase for key domestic programs that benefit working families. But this claim was difficult to reconcile with the $42 billion increase he wanted to devote to his own budget priorities, especially defense-related increases that were in addition to – and unrelated to – operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and activities related to terrorism.
The House failed to override President Bush’s veto of the conference agreement on the FY 2008 Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill, 277-141, on November 15, 2007. (A House veto override requires a two-thirds majority, or 281 votes.) A “Yes” vote in favor of the veto override was counted as a “Right” vote.
13. Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2007 (Vote #768)
AFGE supported passage of the Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2007 (H.R. 2831), a bill designed to overturn the 2007 Supreme Court ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., No. 05-1074 (May 29, 2007) that greatly restricts the ability of workers to sue employers for illegal pay discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. for more than 20 years but was paid less than men who were doing the same job as she was. It wasn’t until many years after she started work that she discovered the pay discrimination and filed her illegal pay discrimination lawsuit.
The Supreme Court ruled that a worker has only 180 days from the date of the first discriminatory pay check to file suit – even if the worker has no way of knowing for months or even years that the pay disparity is the result of illegal discrimination.
The House passed the Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2007, 225-199, on July 31, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of H.R. 2831 was counted as a “Right” vote.
14. District of Columbia Voting Rights Act of 2007 (Vote #231)
AFGE supported passage of the District of Columbia Voting Rights Act of 2007 (S. 1257), a bill intended to correct the historical anomaly that leaves 600,000 American citizens - who live closest to the seat of our democracy, who pay taxes, who go off to war, and who observe other responsibilities of citizenship – without the right to vote for representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.
S. 1257 would permanently expand the U.S. House of Representatives from 435 to 437 seats, providing one seat to the District of Columbia and one additional seat to the State of Utah, the next state in line to receive an additional seat based on the 2000 census.
The House passed the District of Columbia Voting Rights Act of 2007, 241-177, on April 19, 2007. A “Yes” vote in favor of S. 1257 was counted as a “Right” vote.