This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) that would allow funding provided by an agriculture bill to be used to convert jobs held by federal government employees to private, federally contracted positions without first submitting a report to Congress justifying such a change. Such conversion of government jobs to private, federally contracted positions is often referred to as “insourcing.” This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding Agriculture Department programs.
Specifically, the underlying agriculture bill prohibited the Agriculture Department from converting jobs held by federal government employees to private, contracted positions without first providing a report (such reports are known as “A-76 reviews”) to Congress justifying such a conversion. Sessions’ amendment would have eliminated this prohibition.
Sessions urged support for his amendment: “Without the ability to add competitive insourcing, ballooning deficits and out-of-control spending will continue in our government. It is time that Congress explores and gives all solutions to save taxpayers and the managers of the business in the government their hard-earned money. The Heritage Foundation has reported that subjecting federal employee positions which are commercial in nature to a public-private cost comparison will generate on average a 30 percent cost savings regardless of who wins that competition. Rather than preventing market competition that would improve service and lower costs, we should be encouraging agencies to find the best way to deliver services to citizens of this great nation. The role of government should be to govern, not to operate businesses inside the government. Our nation's unemployment rate stands at 9.1 percent. We must allow the private sector the ability to create jobs without an unfair disadvantage. We must get more results for our money.
Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) opposed Sessions’s amendment: “ I rise in opposition to this…[amendment] primarily because if it ain't broken, don't fix it. This [A-76 review process] has been a law for a long time….The [A-76] report is on the Department's contracting-out policies and its budget for contracting out, that information, which Congress has been getting year after year without any problems. The language has been in the bill for many years, and we have always received the report allowing the contracting-out activities to proceed. It hasn't stopped anything….We have a military base in my community, the Defense Language Institute, and the city of Monterey surrounds it. We ended up with an A-76 review, ended up where the city could provide the base operation services much cheaper than the federal employees on the base, saving the Army about $4 million a year and having much better services delivered. So, again, delivering this report to Congress seems to me hasn't been a problem for anyone. And it ain't broke, so I don't think we ought to support fixing it with Mr. Sessions' amendment.”
The House agreed to this amendment by a vote of 226-199. Voting “yea” were 225 Republicans and 1 Democrat. 187 Democrats and 12 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would allow funding provided by an agriculture bill to be used to convert jobs held by federal government employees to private, federally contracted positions without first submitting a report to Congress justifying such a change. In order for this amendment to become law however, it would have to pass the U.S. Senate. Thus, the Agriculture Department was still required to provide Congress with a report justifying a decision to convert federal government jobs into private, contracted positions unless and until this amendment passed the Senate.