Washington The Bush administration Friday ordered the suspension of a Clinton rule that would have significantly strengthened the government's ability to deny contracts to companies that have violated workplace safety, environmental and other federal laws.
In a rebuff to organized labor and a nod to business, the Bush administration is moving to rescind the rule which took effect the day before President Bill Clinton left office that directs federal agencies to assess whether prospective contractors have violated federal laws. Any violations could be held against companies in the competition for the government's $210 billion a year contracting business.
David Drabkin, an official at the General Services Administration, said the existing regulation "more than sufficiently protects the interest of the public and the taxpayer, specifically, from unscrupulous companies."
The Clinton administration had said the new rule was needed to reduce the risk of fraud and abuse.
But industry advocates charged that the rule would greatly harm small businesses and amounted to a "blacklisting" of federal contractors and was a "political payback" to labor unions.
They say that merely missing a paperwork filing deadline for a federal law would be considered a violation and would be enough to torpedo a contractor. They are concerned that unions could file spurious charges against a company for failure to comply with labor or civil rights laws, resulting in the firm losing out on a federal contract.