Senate Passes its Version of the NDAA, Other Spending Bills Still Being Considered
Just as summer in DC is heating up, coincidently, so are budgetary matters in Congress. There are several budget bills before Congress that will require some very tough political decisions, such as a short-term funding bill for transportation, which is set to expire at the end of July, as it seems that both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have given up on a long-term spending bill. There is good news, however, on June 18 the Senate passed their version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2016 by a vote of 71 to 25. The House passed their version of the NDAA last month. The final version of the NDAA could emerge from a House-Senate conference perhaps as early as July according to the Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. That would be remarkable, as the NDAA is usually not approved until late fall.
However, the Ranking Democrats on both Armed Services Committees—Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) both voted against their respective NDAAs, which is extremely rare as the NDAA is usually a bipartisan piece of legislation and supported by the committee leadership. The issue for Democrats is that Republicans did not adhere to the spending caps (sequester) for the nearly $90 billion that went into the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, which is sequester-proof and designated for emergency war expenses. Subsequently, the President has threatened to veto the final NDAA, because he requested that the sequester caps be removed for domestic spending matters, a Democratic priority. It remains to be seen if Congress would be able to override the President’s veto. The Senate passed their NDAA by a vote of 71 to 5, which is a veto-proof majority (2/3 needed to override), but the vote in the House was 269-151, which is far short of the 290 supermajority votes needed to override a President’s veto. These issues will have to be reconciled in the House-Senate Conference Committee in July.
U.S. Senators Portman and Hirono Introduce S. 1526, the “Construction Consensus Procurement Improvement Act of 2015”
On June 8, U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) introduced S. 1526,legislation which is supported by the 15 organizations that comprise the Construction Procurement Coalition (Coalition), which includes the National Association of Surety Bond Producers, American Council of Engineering Companies, American Institute of Architects, American Subcontractors Association, Associated General Contractors of America, Council on Federal Procurement of Architectural & Engineering Services, Design-Build Institute of America, Independent Electrical Contractors Association, National Electrical Contractors Association, and the Surety & Fidelity Association of America. S.1526 was referred to the Senate Homeland Security & Government Affairs Committee (HSGAC) and addresses the following reforms: encourages more efficient utilization of design-build acquisition to attract the most qualified design and construction teams while saving taxpayer dollars; limits the use of reverse auction procurement of design and construction services that small businesses could perform, while increasing more federal contracting opportunities for businesses; prevents fraud by providing financial certainty to assets that support individual surety bonds; and expands the opportunity for small firms to participate in the federal construction market by increasing the guarantee of U.S. Small Business Administration’s Surety Bond Guarantee Program from 70% to 90%.
Since the beginning of the 114th Congress, the Coalition has been actively seeking a Senate companion bill that mirrors legislation introduced earlier this session in the House, which was included in the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Furthermore, the Coalition persuaded Senators Portman and Hirono to introduce an amendment to the Senate NDAA, which mirrors the language in the House NDAA. Over 600 amendments were filled on the Senate NDAA, which included the Portman/Hirono amendment, but only 80 amendments were included in the manager’s amendment package (amendments agreed to by both the majority and minority parties). However, all is not lost. HSGAC is scheduled to hold a series of markups on pending legislation sometime this summer, which may include S. 1526. Earlier this month, NASBP Fly-in participants paved the way as they asked their Senators and especially those who serve on HSGAC to co-sponsor and support S. 1526. The Coalition will continue to make their Hill visits, educating members on HSGAC concerning the merits of S.1526 and also ask that they consider co-sponsoring the measure. NASBP may ask its members to engage in grassroots activity, such as placing phone calls to select Senate offices asking that they support S. 1526. Even though the Coalition did not succeed in getting an amendment in the Senate NDAA, there is still time remaining to have a standalone bill enacted in this congressional session.
For more information contact NASBP Director of Government Relations Larry LeClair at firstname.lastname@example.org.