(WASHINGTON) – Tuesday, legislation designed to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs and introduced by Congressman Jim Banks (R-IN-03) passed with unanimous, bipartisan support. The bill’s passage occurred just one day before the House holds its first public impeachment hearing.
Only 4% of legislation introduced in Congress gets a vote on the House floor. Since the Democrats control the House, they control what gets to the floor. So, the majority of bills passed are Democrat-sponsored. It is rare for a bill to reach the floor at all, but even rarer for a bill introduced by a member of the minority party to pass when the majority is in charge.
Rep. Banks’s bill, the VA Design-Build Construction Enhancement Act of 2019, encourages the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to use design-build construction in appropriate circumstances. Design-build is an innovative and effective method for managing construction projects that is widely used in the private sector and some parts of the federal government.
“I am glad the U.S. House took a break from partisan impeachment to pass this common-sense bill to help tackle the multibillion-dollar backlog of construction projects at the VA,” said Rep. Jim Banks. “The VA should use every available tool to deliver world-class facilities to our veterans.”
“Special thanks to our Democrat lead Rep. Perlmutter, who recognizes the need to put down arms and work across the aisle with Republicans,” continued Rep. Banks.
Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO-07) was the Democrat lead of Rep. Banks’ legislation.
While there’s some relief bipartisanship is not completely dead in the U.S. House, other bipartisan projects remain untouched. President Trump negotiated the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA) last year, but the House has not yet ratified the treaty. Bipartisan drug pricing reform has also stalled in a House embroiled in impeachment proceedings.
The federal government began widespread use of design-build construction in 1996. Design-build is a delivery method for construction projects that combines the architectural, engineering, and construction services into a single contract. It is an innovation from traditional design-bid-build construction, where design and construction are sequential and performed by different contractors. When used in appropriate circumstances, design-build construction can accelerate projects, reduce change orders, and increase warranty protections.
Some federal agencies use design-build construction frequently, while others, like VA, have limited experience with it. VA unsuccessfully attempted to use the “integrated-design and construct” method, which is somewhat similar to design-build, in the troubled Aurora, Colorado replacement medical center construction project. Some have interpreted this experience to mean design-build is unsuitable for VA, but this is a bad conclusion. Specifically, the VA Inspector General found that VA switched to this method in the fourth year of the project, when the vast majority of the design had already been completed, rendering it ineffective.