A measure that would permanently block new labor and employment law violation disclosure requirements for federal contractors moved another step forward as Feb. 2, as House lawmakers voted to approve it.
House members voted 236-187 on the disapproval resolution (H.J. Res. 37). The measure would scrap regulations and guidance implementing former President Barack Obama's Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces executive order (E.O. 13,673). The order, branded by business groups as “blacklisting,” requires federal contractors to disclose labor and employment law violations in order to compete for government business.
The vote sends the resolution to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it's expected to pass with a simple majority approval. President Donald Trump's advisers will urge him to sign the resolution into law if it lands on his desk for signature, the White House said Feb. 1. in a statement of administration policy.
The resolution was co-sponsored by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the Education and the Workforce Committee's new chairwoman, and House Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).
The vote came despite criticism from Democrats and worker advocates, who said the order would ensure that federal contractors abide by labor standards and civil rights laws. Three Democrats—Reps. Henry Cuellar (Texas), Lou Correa (Calif.), Jim Costa (Calif.)—crossed the aisle to vote in favor of the measure.
Foxx: Rule Unfairly Empowers Bureaucrats
The disclosure requirements have been in limbo since a federal judge in Texas put much of the implementing regulations on hold in October. That decision, which allowed the separate pay information obligations to go into effect, is currently on appeal.
Removing the disclosure rule is part of the Republican party's larger goal of undoing some Obama administration's regulations, undoing some of the “overreach” of the administration, Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.) told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 2.
“I saw a tremendous overreach by the Labor Department during the last four years during Tom Perez, who was a very nice guy but a very activist labor secretary,” Roe said.
Moments before the Feb. 2 House vote, Rep. Foxx said on the House floor that the rule wrongly empowers government agencies “to deny employers federal contracts for alleged violations,” of labor laws, and empowers bureaucrats to decide to unfairly deny bidders and keep out some small businesses.
“The Obama blacklisting rule empowers government agencies to deny employers federal contracts for alleged violations of various federal labor laws and similar state laws,” she said. “That's right. Under this rule, bureaucrats can determine employers are guilty until proven innocent and then deny them the ability to do business with the federal government.”
The disapproval resolution, authorized by the Congressional Review Act, has to pass by a majority in each chamber of Congress to move to President Donald Trump's desk for signature. The Senate, which can pass the measure without Democrat support if the entire Republican caucus votes in favor of it, is expected to take up the resolution in the coming days.
Measure Permanently Erases Disclosure
Chabot told Bloomberg BNA Jan. 31 that Republicans chose to address the rule with the CRA because the resolution would permanently ban the Labor Department from floating a similar disclosure requirement in the future.
Chabot's thoughts were echoed by Ben Brubeck, vice president of regulatory, labor and state affairs at the Associated Builders and Contractors, which has been a strong opponent of the rule.
“I think that the CRA is kind of the cleanest way to do this at this point,” Brubeck told Bloomberg BNA Feb. 2. “Roll back those regulations and make sure that a similar rule couldn't be put in place in the future. A similar rule was attempted by the Clinton admin.”
Brubeck said the resolution could also get at least some bipartisan support in the Senate.
“I'm pretty confident that it's going to pass. We've met with Democratic and Republican offices this week, part of our larger coalition, and I'm confident that we've got the votes,” he said. “I think we'll probably see maybe a bipartisan vote, too.”
Worker Advocates Miffed
Some House Democrats Feb. 2 criticized Republicans for trying to undo the rule. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said in chamber floor remarks just before the vote that the measure “enables the overrule of protections for American workers.”
“These are regulations that ensure federal contractors must disclose labor violations across 14 basic labor laws,” she said, adding that the regulation is intended to unveil contractors “who cheat their workers,” and “level the playing field,” for those abiding by the law.
A coalition of 134 labor, consumer and civil rights organizations Jan. 31 sent letters to House and Senate leaders, voicing opposition to dismantling the rule.
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) also criticized the action. Moments before the vote Feb. 2, Scott told Bloomberg BNA that efforts to scuttle the rule create both “winners and losers.”
“There are winners and losers, and the winners are the businesses that have evasive or repeated serious violations of fair pay and safe workplace regulations,” Scott said. “The losers are people who depend on the safe workplace and fair pay, but also contractors who don't cut corners to save money and lose contracts to those who do violate the law.”