Huffington Post’s Sam Stein is reporting that an amendment to the defense appropriations bill authored by Sen. Al Franken and approved in the Senate two weeks ago may be stripped from the final bill. Thirty Senate Republicans – now commemorated in the satirical web site Republicans for Rape – opposed the measure, which would prohibit government contractors from restricting workers from suing if they are sexually assaulted while on the job. But if the measure is altered or disappears, it’ll be a Democrat who’s to blame, Stein reports.
“Mulitiple sources” both inside the beltway and in defense-contracting circles tell Stein that Sen. Daniel Inouye, a Democrat from Hawaii and chair of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, may water down or remove the provision, due to pressure from defense-industry lobbyists who fear contractors will be susceptible to lawsuits.
“The defense contractors have been storming his office,” said a source with knowledge of the situation. “Inouye either will get the amendment taken out altogether, or water it down significantly. If they water it down, they will take out the Title VII claims. This means that in discrimination cases, they will still force you into a secret forced arbitration on KBR’s (or other contractors’) own terms – with your chances of prevailing practically zero. The House seems to be very supportive of the original Franken amendment and all in line, but their hands are tied since it originated in the Senate. And since Inouye runs the show on this bill, he can easily take it out to get Republicans and the defense contractors off his back, which looks increasingly likely.”
Franken’s amendment, however, also has opposition from within the Obama administration. Earlier this week, the Defense Department noted its concerns, stating, “Enforcement would be problematic, especially in cases where privity of contract does not exist between parties within the supply chain that supports a contract. It may be more effective to seek a statutory prohibition of all such arrangements in any business transaction entered into within the jurisdiction of the United States, if these arrangements are deemed to pose an unacceptable method of recourse.”
Franken’s office tells the Minnesota Independent it won’t be making a public comment on the issue. The bill is expected to be sent out of the appropriations committee sometime next week.