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Public Statements

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2012

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. AMASH. Mr. Chairman, the Davis-Bacon Act requires nearly all Federal construction contracts to pay a prevailing wage determined by the Department of Labor. Under the law, construction contractors and subcontractors may not pay their own workers wages lower than the department's pay rate, even if the workers bargain for a wage below the government-set rate.

My amendment blocks application of Davis-Bacon to the Military Construction and Veterans' Affairs appropriations bill. There are two main reasons why the House should block Davis-Bacon.

First, Davis-Bacon wastes taxpayer dollars on overpriced contracts. A recent study showed that, on average, nationwide, the government-set rate is 22 percent higher than the true market rate. For example, if sheet metal workers in Long Island, New York, are paid $28.79 per hour, while the government-set rate for that area is $45.40, factoring in the cost of materials and other supplies, studies suggest that the Federal Government overpays for construction contracts by between 10 percent and 15 percent.

Second, Davis-Bacon gives an unfair advantage to union employees. Small businesses, many of which are nonunion, lower their prices to compete against larger union firms. The trade-off for nonunion employees is a lower-wage rate but more work. We should not disadvantage nonunion employees who are willing to perform more construction for less money. By eliminating government-mandated wages, we can better allocate resources, increase efficiency, and put hardworking Americans back on the job.

Providing for our national defense and the care of our veterans are critical priorities. Construction projects in the appropriations bill include VA facilities, family housing, schools and infrastructure for our National Guard troops stationed on the border. We owe it to our constituents to stretch every taxpayer dollar and spend wisely.

Blocking Davis-Bacon's application to military construction and VA projects will honor our commitment to fiscal responsibility and to our veterans. Let's let competition determine wages, not the Federal Government. Please support my amendment to block Davis-Bacon.

I now yield to the gentleman from Texas.

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Mr. AMASH. Mr. Chairman, at the start of this Congress, the House made important changes to the way the institution operates. We began by ending earmarks. Americans understood that the practice favored Representatives' pet projects while the taxpayer was left to foot the bill. Earmarks diverted our constituents' hard-earned money to low-priority projects and, even worse, appeared corrupt. Americans started to lose confidence in their government when they saw their Representatives using public funds for personal gain.

In a similar vein, this Congress continued last Congress' prohibition on ``monuments to me.'' Like earmarks, when House Members name Federal programs and buildings after themselves, Americans can't be sure whether the programs are funded because they are worthwhile or because they benefit a House Member personally.

The appropriations bill we are considering today has a prohibition on ``monuments to me'' that mirrors the House rules and bans naming programs and buildings after current House Members. My amendment extends that same prohibition to current Senators and the President.

Ending ``monuments to me'' is an important step to preventing the waste of taxpayer dollars and to ensuring that our appropriations are in the best interests of the public, not the personal interests of elected representatives. I ask you to support my amendment.

I yield back the balance of my time.

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