Bush Administration To Defend Affirmative Action Program

August 10, 2001 (PLANSPONSOR.com) -The government is set to file a brief with the Supreme Court defending a federal affirmative action program, which supports the Clinton-era Department of Transportation's highway construction program that favors minority and disadvantaged businesses.

The case began when Adarand Construction, a white-owned Colorado highway construction firm, went to court over a program that set aside construction contracts for minority businesses.   It offered bonuses to contractors if at least 10% of their subcontracting work went to “disadvantaged business enterprises.”   Minority-owned companies were presumed to be disadvantaged.

The subsequent 1995 Supreme Court ruling in the firm’s favor imposed stringent requirements on the government in terms granting preference to minorities.

However, the Transportation Department revised the program, which was later upheld by an appeals court. Now the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the construction company’s new arguments against the program (see Justices to Revisit Affirmative Action in Adarand Case ).

Under Fire

The case, George W. Bush’s first test on affirmative action, has drawn fire from conservative opponents of the policy, who had hoped that the president would change the administration’s stand on the issue, a stand passed down by former president Bill Clinton.

President Bush had voiced opposition to affirmative action programs during his campaign, but had given himself some room to maneuver by expressing support for those that provided greater opportunity for minorities, calling these affirmative access programs.

The Supreme Court will hear the case in its term beginning October, with a decision due by June 2002.

– Camilla Klein                            editors@plansponsor.com