Senate Votes on Waiving Davis-Bacon for Sandy Contracts
WASHINGTON, D.C. - This afternoon, the U.S. Senate voted on a series of amendments to H.R.1, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill, to fund disaster relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Among these amendments was one introduced by Sen. Rand Paul, which would waive the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage law from applying to projects funded in this bill.
The amendment, No. 3376, failed passage, 42-52.
Prior to the vote, Sen. Paul spoke on the Senate floor, urging his colleagues to pass this measure. Below is video and transcript of his floor speech.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEN. PAUL SPEAK ON DAVIS-BACON LAW
Mr. President, when Hurricane Sandy struck the Northeast, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people were without power. We all saw the video footage, we saw the terrible trauma and people are still trying to dig out from underneath the debris of Hurricane Sandy.
During that period of time, hundreds of workers drove up from the South wanting to help. These workers were non-unionized and they were turned away. This was a sad day for our country that non-union workers were not allowed to participate in the cleanup and were asked to join a union before they would be accepted as workers. I think it's a mistake to politicize things like this, particularly at a time of an emergency. So what I've asked for and what my amendment would do would be to allow an exemption to Davis-Bacon.
Davis-Bacon is a federal law that requires that we not have competitive bidding on federal projects. What happens is, on federal projects the wages are fixed at a union-scale wage, and there is not a competitive bidding for wages. So what I've asked is that we suspend that and say in order to get better use of the money, in order to advance the money by billions of dollars and do more with the money -- and this is an enormous amount of money, running into the billions of dollars, in order to get better money to suspend Davis-Bacon we would basically be allowing competitive bidding on wages. This has been done before.
President Nixon and both President Bushes did this during Katrina, we suspended Davis-Bacon because it was an emergency and we wanted to make the best use of our nation's dollars. This amendment would suspend Davis-Bacon for this emergency. It's estimated that it might save as much as 22 percent of the cost. Now, we're talking about billions of dollars here, $60 billion is being requested for this cleanup. Where is the money going to come from? You've heard we van enormous debt, $16 trillion in our country, we have over a trillion dollars in debt this year. Now, we print up the money you the but that simply steals from your savings and steals from your current currency. We can tax you or borrow more but we owe $16 trillion already. So what I'm asking here is why don't we try to make good use of the money that's going towards this disaster, allow the money to go farther, and that is simply by allowing competitive bidding on wages.
Currently there is no competitive bidding on wages, and my amendment would allow for this. I urge my colleagues to stand with taxpayers, to stand with taxpayers against special interests, against political and partisan purposes, and for the sake of an emergency to say we're going to be frugal with the dollars spent. We're not going to be extravagant. We're not going to reward certain special interests that are very involved in the political process. We're going to say we're going to use the money wisely. We're going to allow competitive bidding on wages. So I urge my colleagues to support this temporary and specific suspension of Davis-Bacon for emergency funds.