8(a) Limiting Attempt Fails in Senate

Photo and Story by Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

An attempt by Senator John McCain to limit the federal program that gives special contracting opportunities to Alaska Native Corporations failed Wednesday. Senator Mark Begich successfully fought McCain’s efforts, and in a surprising twist, one of the program’s biggest detractors didn’t show up for the vote.

The Small Business Administration’s 8(a) Program gives special breaks to Native-owned corporations which are seeking government contracts. They can bid without competitors, partner with larger corporations, and they never age out of the program, no matter how much money they make.

McCain’s amendment would have capped contracts at four million dollars for services… and $6.5 million for property deals. It would allow for exceptions: those amounts could go higher if the contracting officer can justify the sole source contract in writing, and the justification was made public and sent to Congress.

But Senator Mark Begich, who sits on the Committee where McCain floated his amendment, countered it. Begich was pleased with the outcome.

The biggest Congressional critic of the Small Business Administration program sits on the committee that took the vote – but she didn’t show up. Senator Claire McCaskill could have submitted a proxy vote, as some of her colleagues did, but she did not. If she had, it could’ve meant a win for McCain’s plan.

McCaskill’s office says she was tied up today with other issues.

Photo: Senator Mark Begich says he successfully helped fight off an effort Wednesday by Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) to limit the program that gives Alaska Native Corporations advantages in gaining government contracts.

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