Washington Union construction workers would gain a hiring advantage for more projects under legislation the House passed Friday, the latest in a series of pro-labor measures by Democrats that President Bush has promised to veto.
The 303-108 vote involves water projects funded by federal lending. Republicans tried but failed to strip out a provision requiring contractors to pay wages equal to those prevailing locally.
The White House said advisers would recommend Bush veto the bill if it retained the Davis-Bacon Act provisions on paying prevailing wages on public works projects. The requirement typically gives an advantage to unionized companies bidding for federal contracts.
A GOP-backed amendment to eliminate the wage provision was rejected on a 280-140 vote.
Bush also has threatened to veto a broad anti-terrorism bill now on the Senate floor because it gives limited union rights to airport screeners. Bush, who has vetoed only one bill in his presidency - a measure expanding federal funding for stem cell research - promised another veto last week over a House-passed bill that eliminates the right of employers to demand a secret ballot election when workers try to organize.
Labor rights have quickly become a hot topic under the Democratic majority, with Democrats pressing issues that received little attention under Republicans. One of the first acts of the House and Senate was passing bills to raise the minimum wage, stuck at $5.15 per hour for the past 10 years.
The House bill passed Friday authorized $14 billion over the next four years for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, a source of low-interest loans that has not been replenished for more than a decade, partly because of the labor dispute. Davis-Bacon has not applied to wastewater project loans for the past dozen years.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Republicans, in their 12 years of running the House, had consistently voted against raising the minimum wage so "it is not surprising to me that you are not for paying a prevailing wage to workers on a public project."
Republicans responded that Davis-Bacon drives up costs for communities and hurts minority and other small businesses overwhelmed by red tape. The bill "benefits big labor bosses at someone else's expense," said Rep. Pete Sessions, R-Texas.