This vote was on an amendment by Tom Coburn, R-Okla., that would have prohibited funds from being used for grants or contracts unless they were subjected to a competitive bidding process. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds energy and water programs in fiscal 2010.
“Billions and billions and billions of dollars are well placed directly to businesses in this country at higher rates than they would have been otherwise had we had competitive bidding and open contracting. Nobody can deny that fact,” Coburn said. “So we are going to get a vote on competitive bidding on every appropriations bill that comes before the Senate.”
In addition, this amendment would have the effect of requiring money dedicated to members’ pet projects ( known as “earmarks”) to be competitively bid. The practice of earmarking is one to which Coburn frequently objects.
Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., said Coburn’s amendment is overbroad and that there are highly complex and technical programs, particularly at the Energy Department, that should not be subject to a competitive bidding process.
“I want us to have contracting rules that give the American people the best value for their dollar, that advance this country in the most significant, capable way. We want the same things. But my point is, when one offers an amendment such as this that says, All right, do it all this way, and even—I would say to the Senator from Oklahoma, even the Senator acknowledges there are areas that perhaps shouldn’t be handled that way. So let’s do it in a way that resolves it in the right way,” Dorgan said.
By a vote of 26-71, the amendment was rejected. Of Republicans present, 23 voted for the amendment and 17 voted against it. All but three Democrats present voted against the amendment. The end result is that the bill went forward without language that would have prohibited funds from going to grants or contracts that were not subjected to a competitive bidding process.