The U.S. Senate defeated an amendment to the Omnibus FY2003 Appropriations Bill, offered by Sen.. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), by a 50-47 vote on January 23. Earlier, by a 50-48 vote, the Senate approved an amendment by Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) that was intended to pre-empt the Mikulski Amendment. It would prohibit arbitrary competitive sourcing quotas, but permit such goals that are based on a reasoned method and would not in any way limit an agency’s ability to contract with the private sector. That language was worked out earlier in the day on Thursday between the staff of Senator Thomas, the White House, and the staff of Senator Mikulski. Later, Senator Mikulski rejected the compromise and moved ahead with her own amendment.
The Mikulski Amendment would have reinstated the language put on the Treasury Appropriations bill last summer by Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND). It would have prohibited the White House from expending funds to set goals or targets for competitive sourcing of commercial positions on agency FAIR Act inventories. The anti-outsourcing language was dropped by Senate Republicans, after winning back control of the Senate in November, when they combined all 11 remaining appropriations bills into one omnibus bill, H.J. Res. 2.
Senator Mikulski called the Bush program “bounty hunters in Federal agencies”, while Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY), author of the FAIR Act, said, “the goal of the FAIR Act is to spend the taxpayers’ money as efficiently as possible to ensure the Federal Government does not compete with the private sector”.
On the Mikulski Amendment all Republicans voted “no” except Senators Snowe (R-ME) and Specter (R-PA) and all Democrats voted “yes”, except Senator Miller (D-GA). Absent were Senators Harkin (D-IA), Inouye (D-HA), and Kerry (D-MA).
The issue may arise again in the House-Senate conference committee on the remaining FY2003 funding legislation.