Order Code RL33149
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
and Its Legislative Aftermath
Updated April 12, 2006
William G. Whittaker
Specialist in Labor Economics
Domestic Social Policy Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Davis-Bacon Suspension and Its Legislative Aftermath
The Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 (as amended) requires that not less than the
locally prevailing wage be paid to workers engaged in federal contract construction.
A higher rate may be required, depending upon market conditions, in order to secure
a qualified workforce. Davis-Bacon, however, represents a wage floor.
Under Davis-Bacon, the President is allowed to suspend the act during a time
of national emergency — though a national emergency is not defined in the act. On
four occasions, Presidents have suspended the statute — most recently in the wake
of Hurricane Katrina.
During the last week of August 2005, Hurricane Katrina gathered strength in the
Atlantic and moved against the Gulf states. On September 8, 2005, amid the chaos
left in Katrina’s wake, President George W. Bush suspended Davis-Bacon —
focusing upon the massive effort that would be required for reconstruction.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the legislative response has been diverse. H.R.
3684 (Flake) proposed to render a suspension mandatory during any major disaster
proclaimed by the President under the Stafford Act. A companion bill was
introduced in the Senate: S. 1817 (DeMint). Other measures, introduced after the
President had acted, would have reversed his proclamation and would have restored
Davis-Bacon to full force: H.R. 3763 (George Miller), H.R. 3834 (Pallone), S. 1749
(Kennedy), and S. 1925 (Kennedy). Yet another bill, S. 1763 (Boxer), would have
given employment preference to persons impacted by Hurricane Katrina — and
would have, in effect, restored Davis-Bacon.
Proceeding in a different manner were H.Res. 467 (Miller) and H.Res. 488
(LaTourette). Though somewhat differently worded, the President was requested in
each to provide to the House of Representatives information in his possession that
related to wages and benefits to be paid to workers in the several hurricane-impacted
areas. H.J.Res 69 (also by Miller) would have reversed the proclamation by the
President and would have terminated the emergency for Davis-Bacon purposes.
Ultimately, each of the suspension-related bills was rendered moot when, on
November 8, 2005, under a supplemental proclamation (Proclamation 7959, of
November 3, 2005), the President restored the Davis-Bacon Act to its full force.
However, a final bill of the sequence (H.R. 4643), introduced by Representative
Steve King, proposed to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act altogether.
This report analyzes the legislative aftermath of the decision to suspend the
Davis-Bacon Act. It will be updated as conditions warrant.
The Davis-Bacon Act: An Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Suspension of Davis-Bacon . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Post-Suspension Legislation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
The Flake Bill: H.R. 3684 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
The Miller Bill: H.R. 3763 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
The Pallone Bill: H.R. 3834 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
The King Bill: H.R. 4643 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
The Kennedy Bill: S. 1749 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
The Boxer Bill: S. 1763 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The Kennedy Bill: S. 1925 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The Miller Resolution: H.Res. 467 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The LaTourette Resolution: H.Res. 488 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
The Miller Resolution: H.J.Res. 69 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
Davis-Bacon Is Reinstated . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
and Its Legislative Aftermath
The Davis-Bacon Act: An Introduction
During the years following World War I, various efforts were made to enhance
the level of professionalism within the construction industry. Where federal contracts
were concerned (with their low-bidder specifications), some contractors would bid
above their level of expertise and, having won a particular contract, then attempt to hire
a workforce. Some were successful in this enterprise; others were not. Some bidders
engaged in bid-brokering, i.e., a systematic acquisition of contracts, followed by a
leasing-out of the work or its transfer to another contractor whose workforce was paid
at an extremely low rate — with the government as consumer indirectly supporting
such abusive practices. There was, some suggested, a persistent lowering of standards
and construction quality — with little concern for the workers actually engaged in
construction nor with the ultimate consumer of the work.1 In the process, some firms
may have been less-than-competent. To such firms, the opprobrious title fly-by-night
operators was given.
As the nation moved into the Great Depression of the 1930s, when government
was investing substantial amounts in public construction, such itinerant jobbers and
firms, basing their operations on low wages, were seen as subverting the recovery
process. The economic impact of publically subsidized work, intended to spur the
economy of an especially depressed area, was defused, and the effort to provide work
(and contracts) for distressed communities was frustrated.
In 1931, Representative Robert Bacon (R-NY) and Senator James Davis (R-PA),
the latter having served as Labor Secretary in the cabinets of Presidents Harding,
Coolidge and Hoover, proposed what would become known as the Davis-Bacon Act.2
The initial enactment seems to have satisfied very few; but, given an Executive Order
(No. 5778) by President Hoover in 1932 and a restructuring of the statute by Congress
in 1935 (P.L. 74-324), the Davis-Bacon Act was modified and quickly became a
generally accepted part of federal labor-management policy. Gradually, the provisions
of Davis-Bacon came to be added to a diverse number of statutes involving public
works and related construction.
Inter alia, see Lloyd Smith, “To Eliminate Irresponsible Bidders,” The Constructor, Jan.
1925, pp. 23 and 64; “When Low Bids Are Too Expensive,” The Constructor, Feb. 1930,
pp. 40-41 and 58; C. W. Butts, “The Necessity for Prequalification: Over Optimism on the
Part of Contractors Requires a Check,” The Constructor, Mar. 1930, pp. 40-41; E. A. St.
John, “Cooperation Eliminating Irresponsibility,” The Constructor, Apr. 1930, pp. 35-36;
and Hard Facts About Contractors,” The Constructor, Sept. 1930, pp. 28-30.
P.L. 72-798, signed into law by President Hoover on Mar. 3, 1931.
By the late 1970s, President Carter commenced a further restructuring of the act
— a process carried on by President Reagan in the 1980s. During subsequent years,
criticism of the act has tended to reflect ideological perspectives: some, conservative,
often in opposition; some, mostly trade unionists and contractors operating with union
crews, in support.3
Among labor laws, Davis-Bacon is widely known but it may not be well known.
The act provides a wage floor and is geared to specific types of construction: i.e.,
residential, building, highway, and heavy construction. It is implemented on a locality
basis, generally on a county level. Although often mislabeled, the Davis-Bacon wage
is not necessarily the union wage — though, in cases where the union wage prevails,
it may be that the Davis-Bacon rate is indeed the union rate. Conversely, the wages
paid on Davis-Bacon projects may be somewhat higher than prescribed by the act
because of demand for labor and for other market considerations. Finally, Davis-Bacon
applies only to federally contracted construction — though its impact may spill over
into the non-federal sector, depending upon the market and general conditions of
Perhaps the most frequently asked question concerning the Davis-Bacon Act is:
Would the federal government (and the taxpayers) save money if the Davis-Bacon Act
were repealed or modified to narrow its scope? The short answer is: No one really
knows. Conversely, might Davis-Bacon result in savings to the federal government in
its purchases of construction. That, too, would seem to be an open question. One might
like to say, forthrightly, that a change in the statute could have a positive or a negative
impact. However, the state of current research would probably be insufficient to justify
just an assertion.4
Suspension of Davis-Bacon
Under Davis-Bacon, the President is allowed to suspend the act in times of
national emergency. However, the concept of national emergency is not defined in the
As the implications of Hurricane Katrina became known, there were increasing
pressures upon the Bush Administration for a suspension of Davis-Bacon. Some
suggested that advocates of suspension were simply using the disaster as a means of
advancing an agenda which they were not, under normal circumstances, able to move
See testimony of Labor Secretary William N. Doak in U.S. Cong., Senate Committee on
Manufactures, Wages of Laborers and Mechanics on Public Buildings, Hearings on S. 5904,
71st Cong., 3rd Sess., Feb. 1931, pp. 2-3. See also: Proclamations and Executive Orders,
Herbert Hoover, Mar. 4, 1929, to Mar. 4, 1933. Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1974, vol.
II, pp. 1066-1067; editorial, “Reinterpreting the Davis-Bacon Law,” The Constructor, Jan.
1932, pp. 15-16; and Federal Register, May 28, 1982, p. 23644. For a summary history of
the act, see CRS Report 94-408, The Davis-Bacon Act: Institutional Evolution and Public
Policy, by William G. Whitaker.
There is an extensive literature on the Davis-Bacon Act, pro and con. See CRS Report 94908 E, Davis-Bacon: The Act and the Literature, by William G. Whitaker.
in Congress.5 Others affirmed that a “[t]emporary suspension of Davis-Bacon will help
avoid costly delays that impede clean-up and reconstruction efforts along the Gulf
Coast.”6 In addition, it was affirmed that “... we need to be as flexible as possible in
helping the Gulf Coast region and ease the burden on state and local officials as we
begin one of the largest reconstruction projects in modern history.”7 Others, citing the
“massive rebuilding challenges ahead,” urged the President to issue “a presidential
proclamation to suspend Davis-Bacon until our country is once again whole.”8
On September 8, 2005, President George W. Bush, citing potential inflationary
wage pressures, suspended the Davis-Bacon Act as it relates to specific segments of
the country (i.e., to portions of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana).9 The
proclamation of suspension specified that both the act and “provisions of all other acts
providing for the payment of wages, which provisions are dependent upon
determinations by the Secretary of Labor” would be suspended.10
Following the September 2005 suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act, a number of
pieces of legislation were introduced that would deal in various ways with that action.
Some, it would appear, would have broadened the suspension or made it mandatory.
Others would have overturned that suspension.
The Flake Bill: H.R. 3684
Representative Jeff Flake was first to emerge with a Davis-Bacon proposal — a
day before the President suspended the act.11 The bill, cited as the “Cleanup and
Reconstruction Enhancement Act (CARE Act),” would amend Section 3147 of Title
40 (the provision that allows the President to suspend Davis-Bacon) by adding at the
end the following:
Rep. George Miller, Statement to the Press, Sept. 8, 2005. See also Jonathan Weisman and
Amy Goldstein, “In the Floods, Parties’ Agendas Surface,” Washington Post, Sept. 10, 2005,
Rep. Tom Feeney, Statement to the Press, Sept. 7, 2005.
Letter from Reps. Charlie Norwood and Charles W. Boustany to George W. Bush, Sept.
Rep. Jeff Flake, Statement to the Press, Sept. 7, 2005.
Concerning the procedure for suspension of such acts as the Davis-Bacon Act, see CRS
Report 98-505, National Emergency Powers, by Harold C. Relyea.
White House press releases, Sept. 8, 2005. Davis-Bacon has been incorporated within a
series of other statutes, specifically or by inference, to which “determinations by the
Secretary of Labor” refers.
The Flake bill had 29 original Republican co-sponsors, now raised to 33. No Democrats
signed onto the bill. There appears to have been no explanatory documents or introductory
In any area that the President determines to be a major disaster under section
102(2) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (42
U.S.C. 5122(2)), the provisions of this subchapter shall not apply for a period of
1 year from the date on which the President makes such determination.
The bill is short and direct. Whenever the President, in the national interest, finds it
necessary to declare a “major disaster” under the Stafford Act (thus, opening eligibility
for various subsidies and/or federal programs), the Davis-Bacon Act will automatically
be suspended for one year (in the area of concern) from the date on which the
determination is made.
The bill would remove from the President what has been a discretionary policy
and render it automatic — if a “major disaster” is declared. Under 42 U.S.C. 5122(2)
of the Stafford Act, a major disaster is defined as “including any hurricane, tornado,
storm, high water, winddriven water, tidal wave, tsunami, earthquake, volcanic
eruption, landslide, mudslide, snowstorm, or drought” or “regardless of cause, any fire,
flood, or explosion” for which the President determines there is a need for “major
disaster assistance.” In a statement subsequently applauding the President’s action,
Representative Flake affirmed that compliance with Davis-Bacon “can add weeks to
federally financed construction projects ... often driving up costs.”12
H.R. 3684 was introduced on September 7, 2005, and referred to the House
Committee on Education and the Workforce.13
The Miller Bill: H.R. 3763
Introduced on September 14, 2005, the proposal by Representative George Miller,
H.R. 3763, would basically overturn the President’s authority with respect to the
particular case of Hurricane Katrina.14
The bill states that, the proclamation of the President, dated September 8, 2005,
or any other provision of law notwithstanding:
... the provisions of subchapter IV of chapter 31 of title 40, United States Code
(and the provisions of all other related Acts to the extent they depend upon a
determination by the Secretary of Labor under section 3142 of such title, whether
or not the President has the authority to suspend the operation of such provisions)
shall apply to all contracts to which such provisions would otherwise apply that are
entered into on or after the date of enactment of this Act, to be performed in the
counties affected by Hurricane Katrina and described in such proclamation.
Rep. Flake, Statement to the Press, Sept. 8, 2005.
S. 1817, a companion bill, was introduced on Oct. 4, 2005, by Senator Jim DeMint and
was referred to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.
The Miller bill had 161 original Democratic co-sponsors including one independent; one
Republican was an initial co-sponsor, but withdrew his name.
In short, the Davis-Bacon Act (and related federal statutes) would be made to apply,
after enactment, to the counties specified in the President’s September 8, 2005,
message. Of course, the act would continue to be applicable to other U.S. jurisdictions.
In an introductory statement, Representative Miller explained that the DavisBacon Act “requires that Federal contractors pay their workers at least the prevailing
wage — simply the wage that is typical for their kind of job in their community.” He
continued: “Many of the workers subjected to these wage cuts [under the President’s
Proclamation] have lost everything — their homes, their property, their jobs, and even
family members.” We owe it to these “American workers” to pay them “a wage that
will allow them and their families to get back on their feet.”15
The Miller bill, cited as the “Fair Wages for Hurricane Victims Act,” was referred
to the Committee on Education and the Workforce.16
The Pallone Bill: H.R. 3834
Introduced on September 20, 2005, by Representative Frank Pallone, H.R. 3834
essentially duplicates the Miller bill except that one phrase, “... whether or not the
President has the authority to suspend the operations of such provisions,” has been
omitted. The measure was referred to the Committee on Education and the
The King Bill: H.R. 4643
Introduced on December 18, 2005, after the President had reinstated the act but
in some respects a part of the cycle, Representative Steve King proposed, in H.R. 4643,
to repeal the Davis-Bacon Act per se. The bill was referred to the House Committee
on Education and the Workforce, and to the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.18
The Kennedy Bill: S. 1749
Introduced on September 21, 2005, by Senator Kennedy, S. 1749 is a companion
to the Miller bill. The measure was referred to the Committee on Health, Education,
Labor, and Pensions.19
In an introductory statement, Senator Kennedy observed that, in rebuilding the
Gulf Coast, “... we are rebuilding communities and neighborhoods. And the
Congressional Record, Sept. 14, 2005, p. E1845.
Representative Charlie Melancon (D-LA) subsequently introduced H.Res. 516, a bill to
provide for adoption of the Miller bill (H.R. 3763). The Melancon bill was referred to the
House Committee on Rules.
There were no other original co-sponsors.
Co-sponsors with Representative King were Representatives Blackburn, Feeney, Flake,
Hensarling, and Musgrave.
The Kennedy bill had 25 original co-sponsors (now raised to 28), all of them Democratic.
foundation of such communities is good jobs with fair wages.” Senator Kennedy
estimated that from “400,000 to 1 million workers may become unemployed as a result
of the hurricane, with the unemployment rate reaching 25 percent or higher in the gulf
region. Many affected workers will be unemployed for 9 months or longer.” The
rebuilding of the Gulf Coast communities “... will be a major source of new
employment, and we need to be sure that they pay decent wages. This is all that DavisBacon does: it simply ensures that workers on Federal Government projects earn a
The Boxer Bill: S. 1763
On September 22, 2005, Senator Barbara Boxer introduced S. 1763, a bill cited
as the “Hurricane Katrina Reconstruction and Displaced Worker Assistance Act of
2005.” The bill, essentially, has two parts. First, it would have the “head of an
executive agency” “give a preference” in hiring for hurricane “reconstruction efforts”
to workers who have been displaced by the storm; “not less than 25 percent of the
workforce that will perform such services” are to be such displaced workers. Second,
notwithstanding the President’s proclamation of September 8, 2005, “... all laborers and
mechanics employed by contractors or subcontractors in the performance of Federal
contracts for the procurement of services in connection with Hurricane Katrina
reconstruction efforts shall be paid wages at rates not less than those prevailing for
similar work in the locality involved....” The bill was referred to the Committee on
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
In an introductory statement, Senator Boxer suggested that “tens of thousands of
people in the Gulf States have lost their jobs” and that “over 200,000 have filed for
unemployment benefits.” Further, taking note of the President’s suspension of the
Davis-Bacon Act, she stated, “The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina should not be used as
an excuse to take advantage of working people.”21
The Kennedy Bill: S. 1925
On October 26, 2005, Senator Kennedy proposed a bill (S. 1925) titled “Rebuild
With Respect Act.” The measure, with 11 original co-sponsors, began by mandating
the reinstatement of the Davis-Bacon Act as it applies to work associated with
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The bill also deals with affirmative action, health and
safety concerns, and related matters. The measure was referred to the Committee on
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.
The Miller Resolution: H.Res. 467
On September 27, 2005, Representative Miller introduced H.Res. 467, a measure
“[r]equesting that the President transmit to the House of Representatives information
Congressional Record, Sept. 21, 2005, pp. S10302-S10303.
Congressional Record, Sept. 22, 2005, p. S10382. Senator Boxer also introduced S. 1644
(Sept. 8, 2005), which provides for a preference for workers displaced by the Hurricane.
The bill was introduced almost simultaneously with the President’s proclamation.
in his possession relating to contracts for services or construction related to Hurricane
Katrina recovery that relate to wages and benefits to be paid to workers.”22
Among the documents requested by the resolution (to be provided no later than
14 days after adoption of the resolution) were materials that deal with reconstruction
in the Gulf region and with Davis-Bacon. This included
... copies of any portions of any contracts in his possession for services or building
or other construction (including pre-awarded contracts or contracts that were
modified or extended) related to Hurricane Katrina recovery or rebuilding that
address wages and benefits to be paid to workers pursuant to the Act commonly
known as the Davis-Bacon Act ..., the Service Contract Act of 1965 ..., or the Fair
Labor Standards Act of 1938 ... that were awarded by the Federal Emergency
Management Agency (or at the request of such agency) or by the Departments of
Labor, Education, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, or Defense, or
the Army Corps of Engineers....
The resolution requested presentation to the House by the President of “any
communications in his possession made or received, on or after August 26, 2005,” by
one or more of the several agencies, “related to compliance with or enforcement of” the
Davis-Bacon Act, the Service Contract Act, or the Fair Labor Standards Act, and that
deal with the “geographic areas specified in the President’s Proclamation 7924 of
September 8, 2005.”23
The resolution, a seldom used device, was referred to the Committee on Education
and the Workforce. In mid-October 2005, the Committee voted to report the measure
unfavorably, along party lines. (See H.Rept. 109-258.)24
The LaTourette Resolution: H.Res. 488
On October 7, 2005, Representative Steven LaTourette introduced H.Res. 488,
similar to, but more abbreviated than, the Miller resolution discussed above. The
LaTourette resolution was referred to the Committee on Transportation and
Infrastructure where, reportedly, Committee Chairman Don Young had agreed to
schedule a markup on the measure in early November.25
On November 2, 2005, the Committee marked up the bill and reported it by voice
vote without recommendation. On the following day, it was placed on the House
calendar — but, by this point, the issue was moot. (See discussion below.)
This language is taken from the title of the resolution. See Congressional Record, Sept.
27, 2005, p. H8388.
See CRS Report RL31909, House Resolutions of Inquiry, by Louis Fisher. This language
is taken from the text of the resolution.
Bureau of National Affairs, Daily Labor Report, Oct. 21, 2005, p. A1 ff. (Cited hereafter
as Daily Labor Report.) The vote was 25 to 20, along party lines.
Daily Labor Report, Oct. 27, 2005, p. AA1 ff.
The Miller Resolution: H.J.Res. 69
On October 20, 2005, Representative Miller introduced H.J.Res. 69. The proposal
would have declared the “national emergency” over and the proclamation lifting
enforcement of the Davis-Bacon Act “terminated.” The bill was referred to the House
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Davis-Bacon Is Reinstated
On September 8, 2005, as noted above, President George W. Bush suspended the
Davis-Bacon Act as it applied to certain Gulf Coast jurisdictions. The President’s
suspension of the act seemed to have produced a substantial backlash favorable to
Davis-Bacon and toward reinstatement.
On September 13, Representative Miller had charged: “While the Administration
is giving out no-bid contracts that fail to protect the taxpayer, it is also exploiting
Hurricane Katrina to undermine the wages of the most desperate workers in our
country.”26 The next day, three trade union officials (Douglas McCarron, Terence
O’Sullivan and Vincent Giblin) wrote to Congress decrying the logic of the
Administration in suspending Davis-Bacon.27 The people of the Gulf States “... have
gone through so much and now the administration wants them to sacrifice decent pay,”
it was suggested. “We don’t hear contractors being asked to work for a reduced
Representative James Oberstar, ranking member of the House Committee on
Transportation and Infrastructure, was similarly critical. “It is particularly unfair to ask
workers to work at low wages to rebuild the devastated areas, when contractors are not
being asked to make any comparable sacrifices.”29 Meanwhile, the co-chairs of the
House Labor and Working Families Caucus — Democratic Representatives Stephen
Lynch, Michael Machaud, and Linda Sanchez — stated, “In an area so afflicted with
poverty and with so many workers struggling to care for their families, waiving this
basic worker protection is a big step in the wrong direction.”30
Gradually, a consensus began to build. Leaders of the state labor federations in
Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas reportedly called upon the President to
rescind his proclamation. “The union leaders also urged Republican governors of the
Daily Labor Report, Sept. 16, 2005, p. A8.
The trade unionists were presidents of the Carpenters and Joiners of America (McCarron),
the Laborers’ International Union (O’Sullivan), and the International Union of Operating
Daily Labor Report, Sept. 15, 2005, p. A8.
Letter to President Bush from Representative James Obverstar, web-site of Representative
Oberstar, Sept. 16, 2005.
Statement from Representatives Stephen Lynch, Michael Machaud, and Linda Sanchez,
Sept. 13, 2005, from a letter to President Bush, web-site of Representative Lynch.
three states in the region [to] add their presumed influence to the effort to restore wage
In Congress, concern was growing. Representatives LaTourette and Frank
LoBiondo organized a letter to President Bush “asking that the suspension of DavisBacon be lifted” — a letter “signed by 37 House Republicans.”32 The dissidents had
“met repeatedly with White House officials, including Andy Card and Karl Rove, and
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert.” In a statement to the press, LaTourette suggested:
“There are thousands of skilled Gulf Coast workers who should be working to rebuild
their communities ...” and observed, further, “companies are passing them by and
hiring cheap unskilled illegal workers to beef up their bottom line.”33 Representative
LoBiondo stated that it was “critical that the Congress have an accurate account of how
all money is being spent.”34
On October 20, about 20 Republicans attended a meeting with White House Chief
of Staff Andrew Card at the office of Speaker Dennis Hastert. Card was described as
“more than receptive” to suggestions from defenders of Davis-Bacon, and, reportedly,
he acknowledged that “they weren’t saving any money” through the suspension.
According to LaTourette, “Card told the Republican lawmakers that ‘he has some bases
to touch’ and ‘that he’s going to take our message to the president, and hopefully he’ll
let us know next week....’” Meanwhile, the LaTourette resolution (H.Res. 488)
remained with the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure of whom
Representative Young, one of the “signatories to the letter sent to Bush,” served as
chairman35 and Representative Oberstar served as Ranking Member.
A few days later, on October 25, Card called to issue an invitation for a meeting
at the White House the following day. At the meeting, Card advised that a “reversal”
would be under way.36 During the White House meeting, Card was quoted as having
said, according to Representative LaTourette, that “there appeared to be no savings
garnered from suspending the Davis-Bacon Act.” In a subsequent statement by Labor
Secretary Elaine Chao, it was affirmed that “a review of current conditions in the
declared areas” has resulted in the reinstatement of “Davis-Bacon Act provisions
effective November 8.” The decision to reinstate the act renders moot the resolution
of inquiry then pending before the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure,
Daily Labor Report, Sept. 30, 2005, p. A9. Of the four states affected by the hurricanes,
three have Republican Governors.
Press release, Oct. 7, 2005, from the web-site of Representative Steven LaTourette.
Press release, Oct. 26, 2005, from the website of Representative Steven LaTourette.
Press release, Oct. 7, 2005, from the web-site of Representative Steven LaTourette.
Daily Labor Report, Oct. 21, 2005, p. A1 ff. See also Daily Labor Report, Oct. 27, 2005,
pp. AA1 ff.
Press release, Oct. 26, 2005, from the web-site of Representative Steven LaTourette.
Daily Labor Report, Oct. 27, 2005, pp. AA1 ff. See also Griff Witte, “Prevailing Wages
To Be Paid Again on Gulf Coast,” The Washington Post, Oct. 27, 2005, pp. A1 and A10.
The utility of the suspension, in the context of the Gulf Coast, may have left
Davis-Bacon critics at a loss. Card’s reported observation that industry was not saving
money through the suspension would seem to have been widely shared.38 According
to Derrell Cohoon, executive director of the Associated General Contractors of
Louisiana, “The issue of prevailing wages under Davis-Bacon really did not mean
much because the market was driving wage rates.” Later, Perry Nations, executive
director of the Associated General Contractors of Mississippi, when asked about pay
rates in construction, indicated that they were then well in excess of the Davis-Bacon
prevailing wage. On the impact of reinstatement, Nations reportedly stated “...
truthfully, none.”39 But, then, the disastrous conditions obtaining in the Gulf States
may have been a somewhat less-than-auspicious laboratory for experiment.40
Daily Labor Report, Oct. 21, 2005, p. A1.
Daily Labor Report, Nov. 3, 2005, p. A6 ff.
Critics of Davis-Bacon continued to press for reforms. For example, see H.R. 3907 (Rep.
Blackburn), advocating a special category of helpers on Davis-Bacon projects; and H.R.
4643 (Rep. Steve King), noted above, which calls for total repeal of the act.