Administration officials announced Thursday that President Clinton has decided to impose a three-year moratorium on any new federal programs that reserve contracts for companies owned by women or minorities. The conditions for reintroducing the set-aside programs falling under the moratorium would be so strict it is unlikely they would ever return. The administration did, however, allow federal agencies to use other kinds of preferences if they can justify them. These might include giving price breaks or extra points when evaluating contract bids by minority or woman-owned companies.
While Clinton limited affirmative action in contracting, a House subcommittee voted 8-5 along party lines in favor of H.R. 2128, the “Equal Opportunity Act of 1996” introduced by Rep. Charles Canady (R-Fla). The bill, which has a counterpart introduced by Senator Dole in the Senate (S. 1085), would eliminate all affirmative action programs within the federal government. After an intense debate lasting over three hours, the House Constitution Subcommittee approved the bill, which will now go to the Judiciary Committee. The bill would not allow the government to “require or encourage” contractors to use race or gender-based “preferences,” which it defines as “an advantage of any kind…” The legislation would eliminate a 30-year-old executive order program which requires most federal contractors to maintain written affirmative action plans with goals and timetables.