This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) that would allow the Homeland Security Department to convert jobs held by federal government employees into private, federally-contracted positions. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Homeland Security Department (DHS) programs.
Specifically, the underlying Homeland Security bill prohibited DHS from converting public sector jobs (in which employees work directly for the federal government) within the department to private, federally contracted positions (in which employees work for private contractors) without submitting an analysis to Congress justifying such a conversion. (Such analyses are known as “A-76” reviews.) Sessions’ amendment eliminated this prohibition in the Homeland Security bill.
Sessions urged support for his amendment: “…Cost competitions between the public and private sector brings the best value to the taxpayer. According to Americans for Tax Reform, the average cost of each new Federal employee for salary, benefits, and pensions totals $4.27 million. Without competition, government-run monopolies of commercial activities duplicate and price out the private sector, resulting in inefficient expenditures of taxpayer money.” Sessions also said: “…I believe that there are inherently governmental functions that a government employee must perform. However, when there is something like changing oil for a fleet of trucks, mowing grass, coming in and cleaning a building, performing functions that can be done more efficiently…[by contracted employees.]”
While no members spoke in opposition to Sessions’ amendment, nearly all Democrats voted against it. On a nearly identical amendment to a Defense Department spending bill Rep. Norm Dicks (D-WA) argued: “I must say we have done these A-76 reviews across the country, and many times we find that the government entity reorganizes itself and can actually do the work at a lesser cost than the private sector. And the other problem with this whole thing is, once the private sector gets it, the costs go right through the roof. So you need to have an analysis done after contracting out is done to make sure that you're not getting ripped off.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 218-204. Voting “yea” were 217 Republicans and 1 Democrat. 187 Democrats and 17 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would allow the Homeland Security Department to convert jobs held by federal government employees into private, federally contracted positions. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would need to pass the Senate as well.