The House : Defense Bill

By a 255-152 vote, the House passed and sent to conference with the Senate a fiscal 1987 defense spending bill that makes major changes in the Administration’s agenda for military spending and arms control. President Reagan finds the bill so objectionable that he has threatened to veto it unless the conference committee brings it into line with his hawkish program for continued Pentagon buildup. In conference, it will be blended with a Senate version that is more to his liking.

The House bill (HR 4428) authorizes $287 billion in Pentagon spending, $33 billion less than Reagan’s request and $8 billion less than the Senate-approved figure.

It defies Reagan by deeply cutting his funding request for the experimental “Star Wars” missile defense system, delaying the planned production of binary nerve gas weaponry, freezing nuclear testing provided the Soviets do the same with adequate verification, continuing a ban on testing anti-satellite weapons in space and requiring the Administration to continue obeying key parts of the unratified SALT II U.S.-Soviet arms control treaty.

Members voting yes favored the defense bill despite Reagan’s strong opposition to it.


How They Voted Yea Nay No vote Rep. Anderson (D) x Rep. Dornan (R) x Rep. Dreier (R) x Rep. Dymally (D) x Rep. Hawkins (D) x Rep. Martinez (D) x Rep. Torres (D) x

Prevailing-Wage Law

The House rejected 167-244 an amendment to change the Davis-Bacon wage law in a way that would save the Treasury hundreds of millions of dollars annually at the expense of some contractors and workers in the building trades. Enacted early in the Great Depression, Davis-Bacon requires the government to pay the “prevailing” wage to construction workers under federal contract. That wage usually matches union scale, and preserving the law is a major priority of organized labor.

The Davis-Bacon law adds at least $900 million annually in federal construction costs, according to the Congressional Budget Office.


The amendment rejected by this vote sought to exempt jobs of under $250,000 from the law. Offered to the fiscal 1987 military authorization bill (above), it would have permitted the government to pay lower wages on an estimated 70% of its construction contracts.

The Senate version of the Pentagon spending bill contains the $250,000 threshold.

Members voting yes wanted to exempt government construction contracts of less than $250,000 from the Davis-Bacon law.

Rep. Anderson (D) x Rep. Dornan (R) x Rep. Dreier (R) x Rep. Dymally (D) x Rep. Hawkins (D) x Rep. Martinez (D) x Rep. Torres (D) x