Art Pottery, Politics and Food
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The President appears perplexed by coffee cans as he tours a Folgers’ plant in New Orleans yesterday.

Through the excellent coverage from Talking Points Memo, Congressman George Miller and the Congressional Research Service say President Bush may have illegally suspended the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina:

President Bush was in such a hurry to cut workers’ wages that he did it even before declaring a national emergency. This may mean that the President’s wage proclamation was done illegally. Contractors in the Gulf Coast should be aware that the President’s proclamation may not protect them from liability if they choose to ignore the law and pay workers less than the prevailing wage…The Congressional Research Service issued a report [Sept 15th] that said that President Bush may have failed to follow the law when issuing his proclamation on Davis-Bacon. He should have first declared a national emergency pursuant to the National Emergencies Act, according to CRS. Miller said this haste reflected the Bush Administration’s eagerness to please right-wing political supporters who have long opposed Davis-Bacon.

Additionally, an important subsection of the National Emergencies Act could present a midterm election difficulty for Republicans:

(b) Termination review of national emergencies by Congress

Not later than six months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.

TPM’s Nathan Newman explains why this is important:

Because in six months, a bunch of Republicans in swing districts who claim to be pro-labor may have to vote on whether to continue the suspension of Davis-Bacon. If they vote with Delay, this could be the vote to knock a number out of them out of office. And if they vote with labor, it would be a massive national defeat for Bush and Delay…Avoiding this possibility may be why Bush didn't want to formally invoke the NEA.

KY 4th Congressman Geoff Davis (R)

This morning I was able to speak Armstrong Robinson, the Administrative Assistant to northern Kentucky’s freshman Republican Representative Geoff Davis regarding the congressman’s position toward President Bush’s suspension of Davis-Bacon.
According to Robinson, a Kenton County native, Congressman Davis supports the President's suspension based on a personal belief that "Davis-Bacon, being an outdated Depression-era law, will prevent market forces from driving the labor market [and so favors] removing artificial supports."
The Congressman believes "skilled labor" will be completely unaffected by the suspension.
I told him that my concern was also with unskilled labor and the Depression-era philosophy of raising all boats in the devastated areas.
Robinson didn't offer an opinion on unskilled labor except to offer an implied belief that contractors would behave in a fair manner.
I’m sure Congressman Davis, considering his personal belief that Davis-Bacon is "outdated", will be eager to record his position on President Bush's suspension into the public record pursuant to Section 1622 of Title 50 of the United States Code before his freshman term ends in November of 2006.

Photos: Reuters,
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