House votes to block contractor disclosure proposal
A proposal to prohibit the government from requiring federal contractors to disclose campaign contributions was approved by the Republican-led House of Representatives Thursday as part of a massive bill that sets funding priorities for the military.
The legislation, which was included as an amendment to the $690 billion defense bill, was a response to a draft executive order from the White House that proposed requiring federal contractors to disclose their political donations as they bid for projects.
The White House and some Democrats have said the proposal would avoid a repeat of the 2010 midterm election, in which millions of dollars of undisclosed campaign money was used to attack candidates across the country. Business groups and some Republicans have countered that the requirement would bring politics into the procurement process.
“Government agencies should award contracts based on merit and value to taxpayers – not politics,” said Rep. Tom Cole, an Oklahoma Republican who authored the amendment.
The draft proposal, which the Obama administration has never officially embraced, would not require awards to be based on political contributions, but trade groups representing contractors said they were nevertheless concerned that including the disclosure along with otherwise nuts-and-bolts bidding documents could affect the contracting process.
Because of its proximity to Washington, Maryland is home to a vast network of government and defense contractors. Southern Maryland Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Democrat, broke ranks with many in his party this month by opposing the White House proposal.
But Hoyer ultimately voted against the amendment itself, which was approved Wednesday on a 261-162 vote. Baltimore County Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, on the other hand, was one of 26 Democrats who voted with all but one Republican to support the measure.
Ruppersberger authored another Maryland-related amendment that was approved with the defense bill Thursday. That proposal would require the military to pay travel expenses for National Guard soldiers stationed in Egypt when they return to the U.S. on leave. There are currently 440 soldiers from Maryland serving in Egypt.
“Never in my experience have I seen legislation go from introduction to passage so quickly and that is a testament to the bipartisan nature of my amendment,” Ruppersberger said in a statement. “This is the way Congress is supposed to work.”
It’s not yet clear whether the Democratic-controlled Senate will take up either proposal when it debates the defense bill later this year.