Spin Cycle

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WASHINGTON - Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-Garden City) Monday passed her first bill as a member of Congress, a measure that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs to give preference in awarding contracts to companies with high concentrations of veteran employees.

The bill, supported by veterans groups and both parties, passed by a vote of 404-0.

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Now Rice must find someone to introduce her bill in the Senate, where it must be passed or die. An aide said Rice is working on finding a Senate sponsor.

"I urge the Senate to take up this important legislation so we can send it to the president for his signature," said Rice in a statement released after the vote.

Rice said the bill was about helping veterans.

"One of the biggest problems facing our veterans right now, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is finding good jobs in civilian life," she said earlier this year at a House hearing on her measure.

Rice said her bill "will reward companies that provide that opportunity; it gives them an advantage in securing federal contracts, and that creates an incentive for other contractors to step up and do the same."

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According to Rice, the VA is authorized to spend $19 billion for procurement and contracts, and her bill would not add any costs. In addition, her bill would bar any company from contracts for five years if it knowingly misrepresents how many veterans it employs.

All members of the Long Island delegation and New York delegation voted for Rice's measure.