A surprise foe for Guinta’s PLA amendment

NH Journal reported New Hampshire 1st District Congressman Frank Guinta recently proposed an amendment that would put an end to federal construction projects requiring pro-union Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), which failed in a 210-210 tied vote in the House. The amendment would have created a level playing field for independent contractors by returning to the Bush administration policy of allowing any and all companies to bid for federal construction contracts. Current law, enacted via President Obama’s Executive Order, effectively limits competition for these contracts to only unionized companies. Studies claim taxpayers saved over $2 billion in 2008 by banning PLAs.

The Guinta amendment’s loss was due to 26 House Republicans that splitting with their party and voting against the measure. While it would be easy to chalk this up to a handful of GOP back-benchers from union-heavy districts, one of the names in the roll call’s “nay” column is raising eyebrows in conservative circles: namely, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

Ryan has become a well-known national political figure in recent years, branding himself as the intellectual standard-bearer of the conservative movement, a latter-day Newt Gingrich, if you will. His idea-focused and articulate brand of fiscal conservatism has garnered praise from political leaders as diverse as Sarah Palin, George Will, and Barack Obama. He was chosen to give the Republican response to Obama’s 2011 State of the Union, and is perpetually buzzed-about as a future Presidential contender.

So why, in the midst of a national push toward fiscal responsibility, would Ryan put his increasingly famous name on the wrong side of a fiscally conservative, pro-business issue? Conservative blogger Matt Lewis took to his Twitter account to ask this very question, tweeting, “Very curious why @RepPaulRyan voted against Guinta’s measure to ban project labor agreements,” and later, “So Paul Ryan, the Budget Chairman, voted to mandate that only union companies can be awarded gvt. Contracts (Non-union need not apply)…”

A recent Wall Street Journal interview may shine a light on Ryan’s “no” vote, but not a very flattering one. In his profile of Ryan, WSJ’s Paul Gigot writes that the 7-term Wisconsin Congressmen is from “a swing district, with closely divided party loyalties and one of the highest union populations in the country.”

This marks the latest in what is becoming a series of troubling votes from Ryan, including votes in favor of the TARP bank bailouts and the bailout of the auto industry. While the vast majority of his record is conservative, it seems he has trouble putting his money where his mouth is when it really counts (and it may have political consequences).

An upcoming test will come in the form of Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Reauthorization legislation currently before the House. This measure would repeal last year’s National Mediation Board (NMB) ruling that allowed a workforce to be unionized without a majority vote. The Workforce Fairness Institute’s Katie Gage writes, “This revocation will ensure that a majority of a workforce must vote in favor of union representation the way they have for nearly one hundred years.”

Small businesses owners who can’t compete and workers who don’t want to be forcibly unionized are likely hoping that Ryan rediscovers his proclaimed conservative principles – soon.

Author: James McKay

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