Increasing opportunities for participation by small business in federal contracting (H.R. 1873)/Motion to recommit with instructions to allow small businesses to be considered "economically disadvantaged" if they can demonstrate they are adversely affected by expiring tax incentives
house Roll Call 322 May 10, 2007
This vote was a Republican attempt to force an amendment to legislation aiming to increase the opportunities for participation by small businesses in federal contracting. Rep. Phil English (R-Pa.) motioned to send the bill back to the Small Business Committee with instructions that it be amended to allow any small businesses that could demonstrate that they would be adversely affected by expiring tax incentives to be considered "economically disadvantaged" and thus better able to compete for federal contracts.
The legislation to which English was seeking to amend would limit the ability of federal agencies to bundle small projects into large contracts and require the Small Business Administration (SBA) to take steps to reduce incorrect entries in the government's contractor registry that currently over-report the number of small businesses awarded federal contracts.
Despite bipartisan support for the legislation, Republicans were upset at what they characterized as being shut out of the amendment process. They said not even one Republican amendment was made in order by the Rules Committee (see Roll Call 312).
So in this case, the motion to recommit with instructions was the Republican's only chance to make substantive changes to a bill before a final up-or-down vote on the measure. A motion to recommit is usually a symbolic vote, however, as the minority rarely wins.
English said his amendment was timely because of the inclusion of what Republicans deemed the largest tax increase in American history in the fiscal 2008 budget resolution proposed by Democrats (see Roll Call 307). In actuality, the "tax increase" Republicans referred to was the omission in the House's version of the budget resolution a plan to extend tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 that the then-Republican-led Congress had originally designed to expire at the end of the decade so as to obscure their true long-term cost.
During debate of the fiscal 2008 budget resolution, Democrats promised to extend the tax cuts to the middle class and small businesses while letting many that benefit only wealthy individuals and large corporations to expire. Nonetheless, the Democrats engaged in a little budget gimmickry of their own by not including the tax cuts they planned to extend in the 2008 budget resolution, allowing them to make the federal budget appear more balanced than it will likely end up being if those tax cuts are extended without cutting federal spending or increasing taxes elsewhere.
For his part, English said that he was "concerned that if we see a change in our tax policies on this scale, that it is going to have a huge impact on small businesses." English was particularly concerned with a tax provision known as Section 179, which allows small businesses to write off their capital investments as business expenses.
"All this motion to recommit is seeking to do is to give small businesses a tool to enhance their success in the marketplace, despite the potential for being hammered by a Brobdingnagian set of tax increases required by the budget that we are going to be facing," English continued.
But Democrats said the argument was nonsense.
"I would just like to say to the gentleman from Pennsylvania that I am a little confused, because if he cares so much about extending section 179, where was he last week when we voted to override the veto of the President where section 179 was part of it?" asked Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.).
Velazquez went on to question the Republicans' commitment to entrepreneurship. "This Congress just sent a bill to the President cutting taxes for small businesses. While the president [signed] a bill for tax breaks for large companies, the president just vetoed the one that helped small businesses, like section 179; not only extending section 179, but expanding section 179," Velazquez said. "Republicans passed $2 trillion in tax cuts, yet small business priorities were never taken care of."
On an almost completely party-line vote, the House rejected the motion to recommit. Republicans were unanimous in their support, while all but 11 Democrats voted against it. Thus, by a vote of 209 to 216, the motion to recommit failed, and a bill aiming to increase the opportunities for participation by small businesses in federal contracting moved towards a final vote without attaching an amendment that would have allowed small businesses that could demonstrate that they are adversely affected by expiring tax incentives to be considered "economically disadvantaged."
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