By Kathleen Hunter
House and Senate authors of legislation aimed at curbing no-bid contracts have begun informal discussions about how to reconcile bills that have passed each chamber.
The Senate passed its bill (S 680), sponsored by Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Joseph I. Lieberman, I-Conn., by voice vote Nov. 7.
The measure would subject federal contracts to increased scrutiny, in part by providing support for federal agencies to develop workers skilled in awarding contracts and by placing greater requirements on government procurement processes.
The House on March 15 passed a companion measure (HR 1362), sponsored by Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
House and Senate aides declined to comment on possible sticking points or on timing for a conference, but a Waxman aide said, "At this point we are working with the Senate to resolve the differences."
The Senate acted after modifying the legislation to allay cost-related concerns, in part by stripping a provision that drew fire from the Budget Committee because it would allow deferred payments on certain federal contracts.
An investigation by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, of which Lieberman is chairman and Collins is the ranking Republican, alleges rampant waste in the more than $400 billion worth of federal contracts awarded each year.
Collins and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., previously discussed combining the contracting bill with a related, McCaskill-sponsored measure (S 1723) that would bolster oversight of the executive branch by giving inspectors general more autonomy with regard to the agencies they oversee.
On Nov. 7, McCaskill and Collins and Lieberman joined with Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to introduce a modified inspector general bill (S 2324).
The House on Oct. 3 passed its version of inspectors general legislation (HR 928), sponsored by Jim Cooper, D-Tenn.