Opposition to Two Amendments to Treasury, Transportation and General Appropriations
September 9, 2003
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:
On behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the world's largest business federation representing more than three million businesses and organizations of every size, sector and region, I am writing to urge you to oppose two adverse amendments that are expected to be offered to the FY04 Treasury, Transportation and General Government appropriations bill (H.R. 2989) by Reps. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). I am also urging you to support an amendment that would seek to ease current restrictions on travel to Cuba.
The proposed amendment by Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) would prohibit federal agencies from compiling inventories of commercial activities as required by the Federal Activities Inventory Reform (FAIR) Act, which seeks simply to make the activities of the government more transparent. It would also prohibit the government from considering quality, past performance, innovation, and other factors essential to smart sourcing decisions. Recompeting commercial government activities would also be prohibited, again, sacrificing savings, innovation and efficiency. Agencies would also be restricted from using a common sense, streamlined process for making sourcing decisions involving fewer than 65 positions, adversely impacting small business participation.
Rep. Chris Van Hollen's (D-MD) proposed amendment would prohibit use of the newly revised OMB Circular A-76 public-private competition process and would instead revert to the fatally flawed old version of the circular. This reversal will disadvantage agencies and the taxpayer by requiring reliance on a process that is cumbersome, lengthy, and costly. Enacting such a provision would be to ignore government efficiency and cost saving practices and would deter the private sector from participating in the government market thereby limiting innovation.
Finally, with respect to Cuba travel, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is expected to offer an amendment to H.R. 2989 that would ease the current U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has consistently supported legislation that opens markets to U.S. products and services around the world. Restrictions on travel are but one of many aspects of a long-standing U.S. policy toward Cuba that has failed for over forty years to achieve the objectives its advocates have sought, namely, to bring political freedom and economic prosperity to Cuba. There is no evidence that the U.S. embargo has imposed any meaningful accountability– economic or otherwise – on the Cuban regime. In the meantime, longstanding restrictions on U.S. citizens' travel to Cuba further impede U.S. efforts to export American values and influence to that nation.
It is time to put American interests first. By eliminating U.S. restrictions on travel to Cuba, we will stand a much better chance of overcoming forty years of separation between our two countries and, in the process, hasten the day when true freedom will arrive in Cuba. Your support and leadership will do much to accelerate that process. Accordingly, we urge you to vote for common sense and improved government performance by opposing amendments that restrict the ability of federal agencies to manage themselves, decrease transparency and hinder private sector involvement in the federal market. Also, please add your support for the amendments to lift the outdated and ineffective Cuba travel restrictions.
R. Bruce Josten
Executive Vice President, Government Affairs
U.S. Chamber of Commerce