This was a vote on an amendment by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) that would have prohibited public works projects funded by a Federal Aviation Administration bill from complying with the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that all public works projects pay the prevailing wage to workers. This amendment was offered to legislation authorizing annual funding for the Federal Aviation Administration, and limiting the ability of federal aviation and railroad workers to form unions. (The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has regulatory authority over all civil aviation in the United States.) Specifically, Sessions’ amendment would have prohibited the FAA bill’s funds from being used to enforce the Davis-Bacon Act.
Sessions urged support for his amendment: “My amendment would prevent any funding within the FAA Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2011 to be used to administer or enforce the Davis-Bacon wage rate requirements with respect to any project or program in the underlying text or any amendment adopted today. Since the Davis-Bacon Act was signed into law in 1931, labor rates for government contracts have been inflated significantly, affecting the cost of administrative expenditures for those awarded projects. Unfortunately, the Davis-Bacon requirement has inadvertently caused the government to pass higher costs on to American taxpayers, often costing 5 to 38 percent more than the project would have cost in the private sector, according to the Associated Builders and Contractors….I say enough is enough. We must reevaluate and look at what we are doing that costs more money for the government and, ultimately, the taxpayers. We must stop passing this financial burden on the backs of hardworking American taxpayers.”
Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) opposed the amendment: “I think it's worth noting that the gentleman from Texas [Rep. Sessions] just noted the trouble that people have had complying with Davis-Bacon over the years. It has been around since 1931 when two Republicans by the names of Davis and Bacon instituted the Davis-Bacon law. Study after study has shown that, despite the opponents' claims, the Davis-Bacon Act has had little or no effect on the total cost of federally assisted construction projects. In fact, there is a study that shows that the high-wage States actually attract more productive, effective, highly skilled, and safe workers, making the cost per mile of highway construction actually cheaper in high-wage states than in low-wage states. It's important to note as well that here we are in an economic recovery, and these Republican continued attacks on our workers of this country at a time when we are slowly, however slowly, pulling out of a recession and entering a recovery do not make any sense at all.”
The House rejected this amendment by a vote of 183-238. Voting “yea” were 183 Republicans. All 187 Democrats present and 51 Republicans voted “nay.” As a result, the House rejected an amendment that would have prohibited public works projects funded by a Federal Aviation Administration bill from complying with the Davis-Bacon Act, which requires that all public works projects pay the prevailing wage to workers.