House Republicans attack labor in military construction, VA bill

In its current form, the bill would prevent any funding in the bill from being used to implement an Obama administration executive order that says agencies have the ability to compare construction costs with and without contract labor agreements. The amendment would strike this language, but Republicans urged members to vote against this change.

Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) argued that the executive order says the agencies may require a project labor agreement, which he said is a collective bargaining deal that tends to increase the costs of any construction project. As a result, he said the executive order essentially lets the government require companies to embrace collective bargaining as a condition of winning government contracts.

"So the Obama administration through this executive order is attempting to unionize any private company in America that wants to do business with the federal government," he said. "That's just an outrage."

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) agreed and said the executive order can also have the effect of keeping companies in certain areas of the country from bidding on contracts. "If we want local contractors to be employed, if want local citizens to get jobs, our local unemployment rates to go down, Mr. Chairman, I would suggest we defeat this amendment," he said.

While Republicans are expected to vote heavily against the amendment, it was sponsored by another Republican, Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-Ohio). LaTourette argued that the bill in its current form would prevent agencies from even comparing the costs of a project both with and without a contract labor agreement, and said that would not serve taxpayers well.

"If you're not making that comparison to find out which is better for the taxpayer, which in fact is going to cause the project to come in at the lowest costs and with the best quality and under time, then it has nothing to with saving the taxpayer money," he said.

"Why would we deny the departments the opportunity to study which way is cheaper, better, more effective and with a better quality?" he continued. "There's only one reason, it's to continue this constant drumbeat of 'we hate unions,' and that's not a good reason to have this language in the bill."

Another amendment, from Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), would prohibit funds in the bill from being used to enforce the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements. Republicans have sought to include this language in the Federal Aviation Administration bill back in April, but the House rejected it.