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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Bush Caves, Reinstates Davis-Bacon on Federally Funded Hurricane Recovery Projects; Will Drive Costs Higher But Make Unions Happy For Now

AP reports that President Bush has reversed course and reinstated the U.S. Department of Labor's Davis-Bacon regulations on federally funded hurricane recovery and reconstruction projects in the Gulf region:

"WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration will reinstate rules requiring that companies awarded federal contracts for Hurricane Katrina pay prevailing wages, usually an amount close to the pay scales in local union contracts.
"Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., was among congressmen critical of the administration's decision to waive the requirement and who met Wednesday with White House chief of staff Andrew Card. He said Card told them the wage requirement would be reinstated Nov. 8.
"'We thought it was bad policy and bad politics, and I guess they accepted our argument,' King told The Associated Press. 'There's no need to antagonize organized labor.'
King was part of a congressional delegation headed by Reps. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., and Steven LaTourette, R-Ohio, that met with Card.
"In the immediate aftermath of Katrina, President Bush suspended provisions of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act, which sets wages for employees on federal contracts to ensure they are not underpaid.
"The administration contended the move would reduce rebuilding costs and help open opportunities to minority-owned companies, but unions and other critics said it would result in lower pay for workers."

Dr. Ron Utt, who was President Ronald Reagan's contracting out czar, previously praised Bush for the decision to lift Davis-Bacon from storm recovery work:

"President Bush is to be commended for showing the courage to take this important but controversial stand as the Gulf Coast region enters this difficult period of recovery and reconstruction. In the days that follow, he will confront many similar challenges and have to make many similarly difficult decisions, and not all of his choices will be popular with influential groups.

"In the case of the Davis-Bacon suspension, for example, some union leaders and their supporters in Congress will certainly be angry at the prospect of losing an unfair advantage, even if that advantage would have come at the expense of those whose lives have been destroyed by Katrina."

You can read Utt's full report here.

This latest decision, along with the lack of vocal White House support for the Coburn amendments last week and the growing fiasco of the Harriet Miers nomination for the U.S. Supreme Court could well ignite an open revolt on the Right that could seriously damage Bush's ability to get anything through Congress for the rest of his second term in the presidency.

It should be noted that a similar revolt was sparked by Bush 41's endorsement of a massive tax hike and nomination of David Souter for the high court, which were among the main factors that led to a disastrous 1992 re-election campaign. Current White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card was a high-ranking official in the Bush 41 administration as well.