U.S. Senate approves measure to kill Obama-era contractor rule

So-called 'blacklisting rule' required contractors bidding on large government contracts to disclose violations

U.S. Senate approves measure to kill Obama-era contractor rule
The U.S. Capitol Building is lit at sunset in Washington, D.C. [photo]REUTERS/Joshua Roberts[/photo]

(Reuters) — Republicans in the U.S. Senate passed a measure to eliminate an Obama administration rule that would require prospective federal contractors to report violations of more than a dozen U.S. labour and employment laws.

On a 49-48 vote, the Senate endorsed a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to overturn the contractor disclosure rule. The U.S. House of Representatives approved it last month, so all that is left to kill the regulation is President Donald Trump's signature on the resolution.

The resolution targeting the contractor regulation, dubbed the “blacklisting rule” by critics, is a part of a larger Republican effort to use the CRA to rollback a swath of federal regulations finalized in the last seven months of the Obama administration.

Trump has signed three CRA resolutions thus far, which eliminated an environmental rule for streams and wetlands, a measure enhancing background checks for mentally ill gun purchasers and a requirement that oil, gas and mining companies report payments to foreign governments. Republican lawmakers have introduced measures targeting more than 30 rules.

The CRA is an efficient method to eliminate recently passed rules, as it is much faster than going through the full regulatory process and cannot be filibustered in the Senate. A CRA resolution also bars agencies from issuing "substantially similar" regulations in the future.

The Senate voted on Monday to eliminate the Obama administration's regulation issued last year calling for companies bidding on federal contracts valued at more than $500,000 to disclose violations of 14 U.S. labour and employment laws and their state equivalents, including those governing wage and hour, collective bargaining, discrimination, and safety and health.

Associated Builders and Contractors and other trade groups' sued to stop the contractor rule and a federal judge in Texas in October blocked most of it from taking effect. The U.S. Labor Department is appealing that ruling at the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but the legal challenge will be unnecessary once Trump signs the CRA resolution as expected.