IIBEC Advocacy – August 2021

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August 9, 2021

IIBEC-Backed Brooks Language Included in House Funding Bill

On June 29, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 2022 Financial Services and General Funding Bill, which includes IIBEC-backed language upholding the Brooks Act. Specifically, the language states:

SEC. 529. None of the funds made available in this Act may be used by the General Services Administration to award or facilitate the award of any contract for the provision of architectural, engineering, and related services in a manner inconsistent with the procedures in the Brooks Act (40 U.S.C. 1101 et. seq.) and part 36.6 of the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

Brian Pallasch, IIBEC CEO/EVP, said “IIBEC appreciates the efforts of Congressman David Price (D-NC) who requested the language be inserted into the spending bill. We are hopeful that this year, due to Rep. Price’s efforts, GSA will take firm steps to ensure compliance with the Brooks Act.”

The language mirrors IIBEC-backed language included last year in the committee report that accompanied the FY ‘21 spending bill.  Unfortunately, GSA made no progress on resolving the problem where companies use GSA schedules to advertise architectural, engineering, or design services in violation of the Brooks Act, which requires the federal government to use qualifications-based selection (QBS) criteria to award such contracts.  Given the lack of progress, IIBEC requested the provision be inserted into the bill itself, which makes it much tougher for GSA to ignore.

The spending bill is expected to be joined with one or more spending bills and voted on by the full House in July. Later, it will be merged with the similarly named Senate version of the funding bill before being wrapped into a larger end-of-year spending package that is expected to be voted on this fall.

GSA Nominee Carnahan Confirmed by Senate

On June 29, Robin Carnahan was confirmed by the Senate as the 45th administrator of the General Services Administration. Carnahan’s previous experience with the GSA was as the head of 18F, GSA’s tech consultants for federal, state, and local governments. Prior to that, she served as Missouri’s secretary of state.

Through its membership in the Coalition of Federal Procurement of Architectural and Engineering Services (COFPAES), IIBEC will request a meeting with Carnahan to discuss the appropriations language mentioned above and steps GSA can take to resolve violations of the Brooks Act.

Brian Pallasch, IIBEC CEO/EVP stated, “We look forward to having a meaningful discussion to explain the history of the problem and work with GSA to address the issues with the Brooks Act.”

The GSA, considered America’s landlord, owns and leases over 376.9 million square feet of space in 9,600 buildings nationwide. Additionally, the federal government, through GSA, is also one of the largest purchasers of goods and services.

Bipartisan Infrastructure Agreement: What Does it Include and What Are the Next Steps?

Even as President Joe Biden announced that a bipartisan agreement had been reached on his infrastructure package, Republicans who had supported the bill started backing away because the president appeared to link the bipartisan effort with a partisan budget package. Although Biden was able to get those senators back on board after numerous phone calls and an official statement, experienced Washingtonians know he will need to navigate around many more obstacles as the bill moves through the legislative process.

The bipartisan legislation would increase infrastructure spending by $579 billion over 10 years, with approximately $312 billion for roads, bridges, and transit, and approximately $266 billion for other infrastructure in areas such as power, broadband, and water. Left out of the agreement are human infrastructure, clean-energy tax credits, R&D-focused investments, and funding for schools and buildings. A plan that combines an assortment of fee increases and repurposing of other unspent funds is proposed to pay for the new spending.

IIBEC is continuing to work individually and through coalitions to build the case for investments in schools and buildings, as well as tax provisions that would give building owners a straight 10-year tax deduction for new high-performance roofs that are designed, installed, operated, and maintained by credentialed professionals.

One of the first major obstacles for the infrastructure package is getting Democrats to pass a budget resolution—a complicated bill that sets the top-line number for how much Congress will allocate for spending in the coming year. With zero Democratic votes to spare in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has to make sure that moderates in the Senate are on board with the final package, while also producing a resolution that will pass the House. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), chair of the Budget Committee, has already signaled a challenge to party moderates by proposing a massive $6 trillion budget to pay for programs important to liberals and progressives. Over in the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has only four votes to spare, so she will need to work overtime to get enough Congressional Democrats to pass a budget resolution. Fault lines are already appearing, as one conservative Democrat has declared he will not vote for a budget as large as the one proposed by the Budget Chairman. On the other side of the divide are members of the Progressive Caucus, who are threatening to withhold support from the infrastructure package unless their spending priorities are in the funding bill.

While a budget resolution does not become law, its passage unlocks the reconciliation process, a special parliamentary procedure that allows the Senate to pass a revenue bill with a simple majority of 51 votes, rather than the 60 votes normally required to avoid a filibuster. Republicans used reconciliation to enact the 2017 tax cuts. Democrats are expected to use reconciliation to fund the programs left out of the infrastructure package, as well as climate initiatives (the “Green New Deal”), and to raise taxes on the wealthy.

Even if Democrats pass a budget resolution to set the top-line number, they will again need a majority to vote for reconciliation to cover the budgetary specifics. One group of Democrats has already made it clear that they will oppose the reconciliation bill if it does not include a provision to allow residents to deduct state and local taxes from their federal taxes.

With 50 Democrats in the Senate and 220 in the House, the party will need many meetings to iron out a budget resolution and then a reconciliation package. A challenge for Congressional leadership is finding time to negotiate: the House and Senate are scheduled to be in Washington at the same time for only nine days in July, zero-days in August, and another nine days in September. There is no requirement that Senators and Representatives negotiate face to face; however, as 2020 has taught everyone, being in the same room is different than meeting by phone or computer.

In the middle of all these negotiations, Texas will hold a special election in August, and it seems likely that another Republican will be joining the House, shrinking Pelosi’s majority to three votes.
While some may see all the obstacles to passing an infrastructure package and wonder why even try, Democrats have been waiting for this opportunity since they lost their majority back in 2014. They are aware that the president’s party usually loses Congressional seats in the midterms, which means they may lose their majority next year. If an infrastructure bill is going to pass, this is likely the year it will happen.