Preventing Organizational Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act

Floor Speech

Date: Dec. 14, 2022
Location: Washington, DC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to S. 3905, the Preventing Organizational Conflicts of Interest in Federal Acquisition Act, for the simple reason that it is unnecessary legislation.

The Federal Acquisition Regulation already contains provisions targeting conflicts of interest. The FAR includes specific examples of what is a conflict of interest. The FAR includes guidance for agencies to add contract clauses addressing conflicts that might arise.

Therefore, it seems we are telling the Federal Acquisition Regulation Council, the body responsible for Federal acquisition policy, to do something it is already doing.

As a result, this legislation will cause the FAR Council to do work it does not need to be doing, but they will surely feel compelled to produce something in the way of new regulations. That means it will become even more difficult for companies to do business with the Federal Government, and it is complicated enough as it is.

There are concerns that companies, especially small businesses, are deciding not to do business with the Federal Government because it is just too complicated.

From a process perspective, Oversight Committee Democrats marked up this bill without any hearings with relevant agency officials to determine if this legislation was truly necessary. My Democrat committee colleagues may point to their report regarding one specific company of concern and argue that was proof enough that we need to legislate in this already crowded space, but a simple case study is not a solid foundation for governmentwide legislation impacting all Federal contractors.

If there are issues with agencies enforcing existing conflicts of interest requirements, then Congress needs to conduct oversight over that Federal Government failure, not rush to pass more duplicative laws. In fact, that would be the responsibility of the Oversight Committee, which I could argue has not been doing proper oversight over the past couple of years.

There may be other anecdotes about conflicts of interest, but let's be clear: No matter what we do, there will always be accusations of conflicts of interest.

Republicans oppose conflicts of interest, but we also support responsible legislating. We also support holding those who are not following the current law or regulation accountable, rather than passing new laws.

With this bill, the most likely outcome is unnecessary work and a more complicated Federal procurement process. It will burden businesses and shrink the pool of eligible contractors, not reduce conflicts of interest.

Mr. Speaker, despite addressing a valid concern, this legislation is simply unnecessary. Federal contractors are already supposed to provide impartial and objective assistance to Federal clients.

The risks of conflicts of interest are addressed by the Federal Acquisition Regulation. I am confident the American taxpayer and our national interests are already protected in this area of Federal procurement policy.

I know the gentleman mentioned opioids and a drug crisis. That is a concern for all Americans, but so is all the fentanyl that is killing Americans coming across our southern border.

I would hope my colleagues would force the administration to close our southern border and make sure these illegal drugs aren't coming over and killing Americans.

Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York.

Mr. Speaker, I feel very strongly about this bill. It is one that came out of a research project that we had on contracting, where we found a major consulting firm was working for the FDA and the manufacturer at the same time. They didn't even have different people. It was the same people working for the FDA on regulation and for the manufacturer, which wanted easy regulations on the product they were putting out--in this case, opioids, which have killed more Americans than any other drug, probably, in history.

I thank my colleagues in the Senate for introducing it and the staff of the Oversight and Reform Committee for introducing it here in the House.

It is absolutely outrageous. I think it should be a crime, actually, that a contractor would be allowed to advise government regulators and not tell them that, at the same time, they are advising the industry that is benefiting from weaker regulation.

If we do not take steps to prevent conflicts of interest and thereby safeguard the integrity of government decisionmaking and operations, then we risk potentially serious breaches in the public trust.

I think it is even more serious. You risk having unsafe drugs going into the marketplace, which has happened before.

Most government contractors take this responsibility to disclose conflicts of interest seriously, but many do not. It is even the business model of some consulting firms to go after both the regulator and the manufacturer at the same time, and they have repeatedly done it.

These contractors would benefit from uniformity in rules. Right now, they are patchwork. We need uniform rules. We need clear rules, and the clear rules should be that a consulting firm can only work for a regulator but cannot work for the manufacturer, or they can work for the manufacturer but not the regulator. Too often, they are working for the same positions with the same person, believe it or not.

I think that this bill will save lives. It will make our industries fair and safer. It should be bipartisan, as it is in the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to strongly support the bill, and I reserve the balance of my time.

Mr. Speaker, I would just like to say that it should be--and already is--illegal for people who are providing this guidance and service to misrepresent things under the False Claims Act. So it is our understanding that it is already a crime to do that, and they would be held accountable.

I know the gentlewoman said it should be a crime. It already is, and I don't know anywhere in the bill that it adds to that. So it should be a crime. People should not be doing things inappropriately. But as I mentioned, we already have the FAR that takes care of making sure people are doing the right things.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to vote against this unnecessary bill, and I yield back the balance of my time.

Mrs. CAROLYN B. MALONEY of New York.

Mr. Speaker, I would say it is a very necessary bill because it is happening. If it is against the law, then the Department of Justice should come in and prosecute people. But they have not, and they are busy prosecuting a lot of other things.

So it is life and death when it comes to healthcare.

We know that the FDA originally wrote rules about the opioids saying they were not addictive. They wrote it right into the regulations: not addictive. They are one of the most addictive drugs of all times. They have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, and we are spending billions of dollars in treatment trying to save the lives of people who have become addicted when the inscription used to be that it was safe. It was safe.

So there are times when laws are abused. This is not about an individual drug company or an individual contractor or an individual consulting firm. It is about a uniformity of rules. We are looking at legislation. We want to stop that abuse.

In a lot of our investigations the Department of Justice has come in and taken action. Maybe they should in this case, too. But if it is illegal, then it is not being enforced; and it is, I would say, dangerous if we don't make it clear--and ironclad clear--that you cannot work for the regulator and the manufacturer at the same time.


Mr. KELLER. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.

The yeas and nays were ordered.