The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs voted on Sept. 28 to advance the Federal Contracting for Peace and Security Act, which would prohibit Federal government procurement from companies that operate within Russia.

One committee member – Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. – said he agreed with the thrust of the legislation but also said he believes the law bill should include companies that do business with China.

The bill – introduced by Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., earlier this month – would only prohibit the Federal government from doing business with companies that continue to operate in Russia during the country’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I am supportive of the substance of this bill to prevent businesses getting government contracts while they are also doing business with or in Russia while Russia continues invading Ukraine. It’s good policy,” Sen. Hawley said. “And I think we should take it further and tell U.S. companies that do business with the Chinese government are not eligible to do business with our Federal government.”

However, Sen. Hawley withdrew amendment a proposed amendment to include China in the bill, and said he would work with Sen. Peters to write a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to investigate the impact that such an action would have.

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, voted no on the bill stating that the legislation could have unintended consequences, specifically negative economic impacts across the United States.

“These contracts offer jobs and opportunities for the American people. What impact would this legislation have on them if it’s passed,” Sen. Romney asked. “We have not done enough research or conducted enough hearings to understand how this legislation would impact American enterprises.”

Sen. Romney explained that he agreed with the underlying thrust of the legislation in lieu of getting more information about its impact.

“I will be voting no on this legislation and suggest that we talk to several different industries to make sure that we are not hurting ourselves, and also we need to be even more specific on the type of enterprises we will go after,” Sen. Romney said.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, the committee’s ranking member, agreed with Sen. Romney and suggested that Sens. Hawley and Peters proposed letter to the GAO include questions on the negative impact on the American enterprise.

Following that discussion, the committee voted to approve the legislation, which now advances to the full Senate.

companion bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., earlier this year. The House version of the bill does make exceptions for information exchange, journalistic activities, and companies pursuing efforts to stop business operations in Russia.

In April 2022, the House Oversight and Reform Committee approved the legislation. In July 2022, the House voted to approve the legislation as part of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

“Back in March, Ukrainian President Zelensky called on Congress to close any loophole allowing American taxpayer dollars to support Russia’s unprovoked war in Ukraine,” Rep. Maloney said in a press release. “The House sent a clear message to Vladimir Putin: American tax dollars will not be allowed to aid and abet your inhumane war against Ukraine in any way.”

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Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez
Lisbeth Perez is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.