White House prepares to unveil ‘High Road’ contracting policy

Multiple sources say the White House could unveil its new ‘High Road’ contracting policy as early as this month in response to the recent spate of media reports. The proposal would leverage federal contracting to raise wages and support unionized companies, a significant shift from the government’s longstanding emphasis on obtaining best value for the taxpayer.

The Daily Caller first reported the White House was considering the proposal in early February. On Monday an administration official confirmed the policy is under consideration but said no final decision has been reached and no formal recommendations have been made to the president.

However, sources say the White House is moving up its timetable by two months in response to recent media reports on the policy and they expect the Obama administration to unveil a proposal in the coming weeks, possibly as early as this month. The administration did not respond to a request to comment.

“It appears that the discussions are very far along and the administration very much wants to bring a High Road option into being on a short horizon,” said Larry Allen, president of the Coalition for Government Procurement. “This is clearly something that they want to do because it’s political payback for the support they got from organized labor during the election.”

With private sector union membership at its lowest levels in decades, the labor movement hoped its strong support of Obama on the campaign trail would translate into substantive action to bolster unions. Instead labor has been dealt a series of setbacks from the stalling of card check to the Senate blocking labor lawyer Craig Becker’s appointment to the NLRB. AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka and other labor leaders pressed the White House to use a recess appointment to seat Becker but the president demurred.

In contrast, tilting the $500 billion federal contracting market to favor unionized companies would be the most significant policy enacted on labor’s behalf since President Obama took office. The policy could also have far-reaching impact on the construction and services industries, both of which currently rely heavily on federal spending.

Last week the Project on Government Oversight, the Center for American Progress and the non-profit OMB Watch sent a letter to President Obama expressing their support for the High Road policy, which they claim will decrease government waste and promote competition among bidders. They also point to law enacted in Maryland that requires contractors to pay a “living wage” that they say increased the average number of bids by 30 percent.

“We urge you to support reforms that, in selecting contractors, give significant weight to companies that provide workers with good wages, affordable health care, paid leave and retirement security,” the letter states.

Republicans and industry groups have slammed the proposal, which would give preference to contractors that pay hourly workers a “living wage” and provide other benefits. Critics contend that the process would heavily favor unionized companies in the federal market. Allen said members of the contracting community view the policy as an attempt to use government contracting to “redistribute wealth across a certain class of working people.”

Since taking office Obama has repeatedly promised to lower the cost and increase the transparency of government contracting. Industry and good government groups contend that the High Road policy would have the opposite effect.

“This is not not government management at all, this is very much a social policy with its own set of drivers,” said Allen, adding that if adopted, the proposal would significantly increase the cost and number of delays in the procurement process.

Allen’s concerns were echoed by Sen. Susan Collins and four other Republican Senators who sent a letter to OMB director Peter Orszag in early February requesting a briefing on the proposal. Allen said the Obama administration is “being very cagey about whether they’re even going to brief the Hill.”

  • rick013

    Good by Free Enterprise. Good by to small business. Good by to freedom of choice. Welcome to government controlled unions and enterprise – monopoly government.

  • billbrady

    Less than a week ago, this was in very “early” stages of consideration and no policy changes were forthcoming. I guess when it became public knowledge, it caught Obama by surprise? Just like everything else? Another policy that will now be debated in the public forum rather than ushered through in the middle of the night in the back rooms of Congress. Another example of the “most open and ethical” government in the history of the country as promised by Obama during the campaign and also by Madam Speechless of the House. What’s not to trust here?

  • thebigodoopedu2

    Obama wants you to pull his finger 😐

  • rick013

    This program does include E-verify or guarantee only citizens or legal residents will be hired to do the work. Smell something fishy?

    • hurtzallot

      Pelosi………..poor poor poor Mr. Pelosi.

      • thebigodoopedu2

        Mr. there one?..I can’t imagine Nasty Pelosi being married.

        • theveed

          I’m afraid MR. pelosi is battery operated =)

          • Kelly Hardy


    • billbrady

      I think there’s a whiff of amnesty in the air……..and in this “high road” program.

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  • Richmond Baker

    Well, I guess instead of paying $500 for that hammer, we are going to pay $1000.

    • theveed

      Honey, I wouldn’t mind paying that much for a hammer, but only if I got to use it on their heads 😉

  • theveed

    That’s ok let these mother fu***rs keep kindling the anger of the American people, let them fan the flames; I predict a perfect storm come November, a FIRE storm!!! )=O

  • doncicciofitipaldi

    Ahhhhhhhh…….Barack looked so young back then….duh!

    • des1

      “I knew you were a homo.”

      I’m reminded of my favorite line from Spawn, where the villain says, “Why does God get all the good followers and we get all the retards?”

      Seriously, with hateful, ignorant bigots like you, Democrats will continue to win elections because no one wants to be on your side.

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  • palmeto

    Unions and Chicago politics are joined at the hip. They will both be pushed back into the dustbin this upcoming fall election as they are both outdated and of no use to america. Imagine, a few corrupt union officials telling the majority of americans how we should live and work. Its not the 1930s and this is not the Soviet Union folks. Push back and push back hard as these criminals need to be wiped out for the good of the USA and our childrens future.

    • thebigodoopedu2

      You got that right!