This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) that would allow the Energy Department and the Army Corps of Engineers to convert jobs held by federal government employees to private, federally contracted positions. This amendment was offered to legislation providing annual funding for Energy Department programs and the Army Corps of Engineers in fiscal year 2012.
Specifically, the underlying bill prohibited the Energy Department and Army Corps of Engineers from converting jobs held by federal government employees to private, contracted positions. Sessions’ amendment would have eliminated this prohibition.
Sessions urged support for his amendment: “My amendment would strike section 102 of this legislation, which, as drafted, prohibits the use of any funds in the underlying bill to convert any functions performed by federal government employees to private competition…Currently, some 850,000 of the 2 million executive branch, non-postal, full-time, and permanent positions are jobs that are commercial in nature. The Heritage Foundation has reported that subjecting Federal employee positions which are commercial in nature to a public-private cost comparison generate on average a 30 percent cost savings regardless of which sector wins the competition. According to Americans for Tax Reform, the average cost of each new federal employee for salary, benefits and pension 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.”
Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-IN) opposed Sessions’ amendment: “The importance of locks and dams to our nation's economy cannot be understated, and any failure to ensure that the nation's waterways remain safe and navigable would cripple the economy. These operators and mechanics make vital decisions affecting the lives, liberty and property of private persons, thus rendering the workload inappropriate for contractor performance. Further, no reasonable argument has been made that the locks and dams are overstaffed. Additionally, the Corps undertook a privatization study for their IT personnel in 2004. After an expensive 3-year study, the results came back as an in-house win….We need to stop wasting millions of dollars on these expensive competitions that time and again show government employees are a less expensive alternative, and I would urge all of my colleagues to vote `no.'”
The House agreed to Sessions’ amendment by a vote of 224-196. Voting “yea” were 222 Republicans and 2 Democrats. 180 Democrats and 16 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House agreed to an amendment that would allow the Energy Department and the Army Corps of Engineers to convert jobs held by federal government employees to private, federally contracted positions. In order for this amendment to become law, however, it would have to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president. At the time this vote occurred, the Senate had not acted on the amendment.