House restores small biz contract dollars to 30 percent

After some wrangling earlier this week, the House has decided agencies should give 30 percent of their contracting dollars to small businesses.

This morning, the House voted 371 to 55 for an amendment that aims to return the benchmark to 30 percent, as required in the originally proposed Small Business Fairness in Contracting Act.

The proposed amount had decreased when the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee recently cut it to 25 percent, still 2 percent higher than the 23 percent goal current law dictates. Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) voted against the amendment but for passage of the bill.

The House passed the bill 409 to 13. The legislation now is headed to the Senate for consideration.

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said in a statement that he plans to consider some provisions in the bill, but he didn't specify which ones.

"I have said from the outset of this Congress that there needs to be aggressive oversight of the federal contracting process and restored accountability," Kerry said.

He said one of his priorities this year is to complete a contracting bill.

The Bush administration believes 23 percent is an acceptable mark. It opposes the bill, but President Bush has not threatened to veto it.

Rep. Melissa Bean (D-Ill.), who offered the amendment to raise the percentage, said the goal reflects the new reality of small businesses' larger role in the economy.

The contracting goal has not been increased since 1997.

House Small Business Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) agreed with Bean's amendment.

"The goal is a measurement of commitment to small businesses, and when the goal isn't achieved, small businesses pay the price," Velazquez said.

Matthew Weigelt writes for Federal Computer Week, an 1105 Government Information Group publication.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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