. . . Congress had before it, among other data, evidence of a long history of marked disparity in the percentage of public contracts awarded to minority business enterprises. This disparity was considered to result not from any lack of capable and qualified minority businesses, but from the existence and maintenance of barriers to competitive access which had their roots in racial and ethnic discrmination, and which continue today, even absent any intentional discrimination or other unlawful conduct. . . .
In relation to the MBE [minority business enterprise] provision, Congress acted within its competence to determine that the problem was national in scope.
Although the act recites no preambulary "findings" on the subject, we satisfied that Congress had abundant historical basis from which it could conclude that traditional procurement practices, when applied to minority businesses, could perpetuate the effects of prior discrimination. Accordingly, Congress reasonably determined that the prospective elimination of these barriers to minority firm access to public contracting opportunities generated by the 1977 act was appropriate to ensure that those businesses were not denied equal opportunity to participate in federal grants to state and local governments, which is one aspect of the equal protection of laws . . .
Here we deal, as we noted earlier, not with the limited remedial powers of a federal court, for example, but with the broad remedial powers of Congress. It is fundamental that in no organ of government, state or federal, does there repose a more comprehensive remedial power than in the Congress, expressly charged by the Constitution with competence and authority to enforce equal protection guarantees. Congress not only may induce voluntary action to assure compliance with existing federal statutory or constitutional antidiscrimination provisions, but also, where Congress has authority to declare certain conduct unlawful, it may, as here, authorize and induce state action to avoid such conduct.
A more specific challenge to the MBE is the charge that it impermissibly deprives nonminority businesses of access to at least some portion of the government contracting opportunities generated by the act.
It must be conceded that by its objective of remedyng the historical impairment of access, the MBE provision can have the effect of awarding some contracts to MBEs which otherwise might be awarded to other businesses, who may themselves be innocent of any prior discriminatory actions. Failure of monminority firms to receive certain contracts is, of course, an incidental consequence of the program, not part of its objective; similarly, part impairment of minority-firm access to public contracting opportunities may have been an incidental consequence of "business-as-usual" by public contracting agencies and among prime contractors.
It is not a constitutional defect in this program that it may disappoint the expectations of nonminority firms. When effectuating a limited and properly tailored remedy to cure the effects of prior discrimination, such "a sharing of the burden" by innocent parties is not impermissible.
. . . On this record, we find no basis to hold that Congress is without authority to undertake the kind of limited remedial effort represented by the MBE program. Congress, not the courts, has the heavy burden of dealing with a host of intractable economic and social problems.