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THESE BILLS MUST PASS

endorseIt’s a convention around here—practiced with tongue firmly in cheek—to adamantly support any bill whose title is a clever enough acronym. And we’ve got some good ones this week!

They both were recently scored by the Congressional Budget Office, so they are bills that Congress is serious about considering and potentially passing. We think they must pass, because their titles are so clever.

First up, H.R. 4904, the Making Electronic Government Accountable By Yielding Tangible Efficiencies Act of 2016. You’ve probably noticed its best feature already: the acronym for the bill is “MEGABYTE.”

Some congressional staffers spent some serious time on that one. How many brainstorming sessions do you suppose it took?

H.R. 4904 would amend federal laws related to management of the federal government’s licenses for information technology software. The fedgov spent about $9 billion on software licenses in 2015, so it’s no small matter. As the bill would mostly codify current practice, it’s effect on federal spending is effectively nil.

It’s got a great name. Pass it!

Next, S. 2555, the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act. That’s right, the MOBILE NOW Act.

Pass it, Congress! Pass it! What are you waiting for?!

The bill would authorize various programs and measures related to management of the electromagnetic spectrum. Agencies would prepare reports, develop information for telecom firms, award prizes for advanced technologies, and ensure that certain radio frequencies are made available for commercial uses—all these efforts aimed at delivering better wireless services: MOBILE SOON.

Spending of about $135 million in S. 2555 is equivalent to just under $2 per U.S. family.

This is really Congress at its best—coming up with the cleverest bill names. We wholeheartedly endorse these bills!

Here are the current votes on H.R. 4904, the Making Electronic Government Accountable By Yielding Tangible Efficiencies Act of 2016 and S. 2555, the Making Opportunities for Broadband Investment and Limiting Excessive and Needless Obstacles to Wireless Act. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki articles on the bills.

WashingtonWatch.com Digest – April 25, 2016

This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of April 25, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.

On the Blog: More Spending Without a Budget

It wasn’t a response to our post on the topic, but this past week the Senate Appropriations Committee defended the practice of spending without a budget. More FY 2017 spending bills are in the pipeline.

Read about it in a post entitled: “Budgetless Spending Continues.”

Featured Item

This week, the House will debate H.R. 4901, the Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act.

The bill would fund private-school scholarships for District of Columbia students and it would spend money on improving public education in D.C. and on improving and expanding public charter schools.

Passage of H.R. 4901 would cost about $2.50 per U.S. family.

H.R. 4901
The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act
Costs $2.52 per family

What People Think

Click here to vote on The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act. Click here to vote on The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act.

The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act
33% For, 67% Against

Vote on this Bill


Displayed below are new, updated, and passed items with their cost or savings per family.

New Items

S. 2837
The Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
Costs $583.65 per family

H.R. 4901
The Scholarships for Opportunity and Results Reauthorization Act
Costs $2.52 per family

S. 2844
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
Costs $1,086.00 per family

H.R. 87
The Shiloh National Military Park Boundary Adjustment and Parker’s Crossroads Battlefield Designation Act
Costs $0.03 per family

H.R. 1684
The Foreign Spill Protection Act of 2015
Costs $0.09 per family

S. 2340
The Making Electronic Government Accountable By Yielding Tangible Efficiencies Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 3070
The EEZ Clarification Act
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 3826
The Mount Hood Cooper Spur Land Exchange Clarification Act
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 4293
The Affordable Retirement Advice Protection Act
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 4482
The Southwest Border Security Threat Assessment Act of 2016
Costs $0.01 per family

H.R. 4885
The IRS Oversight While Eliminating Spending (OWES) Act of 2016
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 4890
To impose a ban on the payment of bonuses to employees of the Internal Revenue Service until the Secretary of the Treasury develops and implements a comprehensive customer service strategy
Costs $0.02 per family

H.R. 1486
The TABS Act of 2015
Saves $45.65 per family

H.R. 1206
The No Hires for the Delinquent IRS Act
Costs $0.05 per family

H.R. 4139
The Fostering Innovation Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 3724
The Ensuring Integrity in the IRS Workforce Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

S. 2806
The Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
Costs $1,664.34 per family

H.R. 4498
The HALOS Act
Costs $0.01 per family

S. 2804
The Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017
Costs $338.62 per family


Updated Items

H.R. 4294
The SAVERS Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family


Passed Items

P.L. 114-144
The Older Americans Act Reauthorization Act of 2015
Costs $51.13 per family

P.L. 114-145
The Ensuring Patient Access and Effective Drug Enforcement Act of 2015

P.L. 114-146
The Adding Zika Virus to the FDA Priority Review Voucher Program Act

(0 comments | Categories: The Week Ahead » )

Budgetless Spending Continues

directionlessIt wasn’t us, certainly. It was an innate sense of guilt that undoubtedly got the Senate Appropriations Committee to defend Congress’s failure to pass a budget by the April 15 deadline. It appears as though Congress will not do a budget at all this year.

In our “Spending Without a Budget” post last week, we lamented the fact that Congress has not passed a budget plan, but has started moving spending bills.

The Senate Appropriations Committee filed a report this week that defended the practice of spending without a budget. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, it says, excuses Congress from passing a budget.

“This approach is not without precedent,” the report continues.

An identical procedure for the providing of an allocation to the Committee for fiscal year 2014, and again in fiscal year 2015 was contained in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. Also, for fiscal year 2012, and again in fiscal year 2013, such a procedure was contained in the Budget Control Act of 2011. No budget resolutions were adopted by Congress in any of those years.

And it goes on. Congress often fails to budget. You’d think that we in the public aren’t even here.

But some more FY 2017 spending bills were introduced in the past week. Here’s a list of all the bills we have seen so far. Budgetless spending continues…

Commerce/Justice/Science
S. 2837, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017spends $583.65 per U.S. family

Energy and Water
S. 2804, the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017spends $338.62 per U.S. family

Military/Veterans
H.R. 4974, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017spends $1,659.39 per U.S. family

S. 2806, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017spends $1,664.34 per U.S. family

Transportation
S. 2844, the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017spends $1,086.00 per U.S. family

(0 comments | Categories: Appropriations/Budget » )

WashingtonWatch.com Digest – April 18, 2016

This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of April 18, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.

On the Blog: Spending Without a Budget

Republicans have claimed the mantle of fiscal responsibility for many decades, but they seem to be giving it away. They’re “Spending Without a Budget.”

Featured Item

Last week, the first appropriation bill for fiscal year 2017 was introduced.

H.R. 4974 spends money on military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017.

Passage of H.R. 4974 would cost a little over $1,600 per U.S. family.

H.R. 4974
Making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, and for other purposes
Costs $1,658.97 per family

What People Think

Click here to vote on H.R. 4974. Click here to vote on H.R. 4974.

H.R. 4974
33% For, 67% Against

Vote on this Bill


Displayed below are new, updated, and passed items with their cost or savings per family.

New Items

H.R. 4590
The Fiscal Year 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs Seismic Safety, Construction, and Leases Authorization Act
Costs $6.01 per family

H.R. 4974
Making appropriations for military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2017, and for other purposes
Costs $1,658.97 per family

H.R. 4509
The State and High-Risk Urban Area Working Group Act
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 4785
The DHS SAVE Act
Costs $0.27 per family

H.R. 4549
The Treating Small Airports with Fairness Act of 2016
Costs $0.28 per family

H.R. 4698
The Securing Aviation from Foreign Entry Points and Guarding Airports Through Enhanced Security Act of 2016
Costs $0.03 per family

S. 1886
The Coordinated Ocean Monitoring and Research Act
Costs $0.77 per family

H.R. 295
To reauthorize the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Historic Preservation program
Costs $0.10 per family

H.R. 4358
The Senior Executive Service Accountability Act
Costs $0.00 per family

S. 2687
The Plan of Safe Care Improvement Act
Costs $0.07 per family

S. 1935
The Waterfront Community Revitalization and Resiliency Act of 2015
Costs $0.16 per family

H.R. 4639
The Thoroughly Investigating Retaliation Against Whistleblowers Act
Costs $0.90 per family

S. 2058
The Metropolitan Weather Hazards Protection Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 4678
To prohibit modification, abrogation, abandonment, or other related actions with respect to United States jurisdiction and control over United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, without congressional action
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 2121
The SAFE Transitional Licensing Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 2901
The Flood Insurance Market Parity and Modernization Act
Costs $0.00 per family


Updated Items

none


Passed Items

P.L. 114-143
The Integrated Public Alert and Warning System Modernization Act of 2015
Costs $0.31 per family

(0 comments | Categories: The Week Ahead » )

Spending Without a Budget

budget_processRepublicans are the party of fiscal responsibility, right?

They’re the ones who are careful with taxpayer dollars. Right?

Maybe not.

We noted a couple of weeks ago that the budget debate in Congress was getting underway a little late. Now it appears to have been abandoned.

April 15th was the deadline for Congress to finish establishing the budget for fiscal year 2017, which begins November 1st. But instead of a finalized budget, we got a spending bill.

H.R. 4974 proposes spending on military construction, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and related agencies next fiscal year. It was introduced Friday.

Does the $184 billion in spending in that bill—about $1,600 per U.S. family—stay within the budget? We can’t know because there isn’t one.

We did see a budget proposal introduced in the House. H. Con. Res. 125 proposed spending of about $3.1 trillion or $27,000 per U.S. family. But it hasn’t passed the House, much less been agreed to in the Senate.

What’s supposed to happen is that a budget is passed, then the total budget number is allocated among appropriations subcommittees. But there is no budget, so there are no allocations.

Republicans control the House and Senate. The budget is a document that does not need the president’s signature. So there doesn’t need to be a partisan debate for there to be a budget, other than standard cooperation with the Democratic minority in the Senate. Republicans, this group of legislators who have claimed the mantle of fiscal responsibility for many decades, seem to be giving it away.

Of course, their behavior is always based on what they think you want. If they don’t hear about it from you, they won’t feel obligated to budget and spend responsibly. Right now, your Republican Congress is spending without a budget.

(5 comments | Categories: Appropriations/Budget » )

WashingtonWatch.com Digest – April 11, 2016

This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of April 11, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.

On the Blog: Hide-the-Ball

Nobody came up with a devious plan to frustrate public oversight. But over years, Congress has found it a little easier to debate one bill as an amendment to an entirely different bill. Now it happens too often.

Read about it in a post entitled: “Congress Plays Hide-the-Ball with ‘Legislative Vehicles’.”

Featured Items

This week, the Senate will debate H.R. 636 as the “legislative vehicle” for legislation to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration.

S. 2658, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, is FAA reauthorization legislation that recently received a cost estimate.

Under S. 2658, spending for the FAA for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 would cost the average U.S. family about $143.

The House will debate H.R. 2666, the No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act.

The bill would prohibit the Federal Communications Commission from regulating the rates charged for broadband Internet access service.

Passage of H.R. 2666 would have little budgetary effect.

S. 2658
The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016
Costs $142.95 per family

H.R. 2666
The No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act
Costs $0.00 per family

What People Think

Click here to vote on The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016. Click here to vote on The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016.

The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016
66% For, 34% Against

Vote on this Bill

Click here to vote on The No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act. Click here to vote on The No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act.

The No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act
50% For, 50% Against

Vote on this Bill


Displayed below are new, updated, and passed items with their cost or savings per family.

New Items

H.R. 1815
The Eastern Nevada Land Implementation Improvement Act
Costs $0.02 per family

H.R. 4403
The Enhancing Overseas Traveler Vetting Act
Costs $0.02 per family

S. 2658
The Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016
Costs $142.95 per family


Updated Items

none


Passed Items

P.L. 114-142
The Foreclosure Relief and Extension for Servicemembers Act of 2015

(0 comments | Categories: The Week Ahead » )

Congress Plays Hide-the-Ball with “Legislative Vehicles”

three card monteIt’s not like Congress came up with a devious plan to frustrate public oversight. But over years, things have been a little easier when they’ve used a “legislative vehicle.” Debating one bill as an amendment to a different bill is now something they do with frustrating regularity.

Never mind what good reasons there are for the practice, the “legislative vehicle” concept should be scrapped.

The Federal Aviation Administration is periodically reauthorized by Congress. Well and good. But as our friends at GovTrack point out, Congress is set to debate FAA reauthorization on a “legislative vehicle”—a different bill.

S. 2658, the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act of 2016, is a bill to reauthorize the FAA. What it does is right there in the title, and sites like ours help inform the public about it. Passage of S. 2658 would cost about $143 per U.S. family.

But the Senate isn’t taking up S. 2658 next week. Instead, it’s going to take the text of FAA reauthorization and pop it into another bill, H.R. 636. The tax tweaks in H.R. 636 were slipped into the Consolidated Appropriations Act last year, so the bill itself was just sitting around…

But that’s no reason to use that bill as a legislative vehicle for another one. You see, when ordinary Americans go to follow along and they see that the Senate is debating “H.R. 636,” they’re going to see a bill about small business taxes, not the FAA.

Sure, insiders know that this switcheroo has happened, but that’s just an illustration of how the “legislative vehicle” concept privileges insiders.

So, we propose the following: no legislative vehicles. Legislative vehicles are “hide-the-ball” and they come with a presumption that Congress is up to no good.

(2 comments | Categories: Transportation » )

WashingtonWatch.com Digest – April 4, 2016

This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of April 4, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.

On the Blog: The Budget

Does the House budget plan for fiscal 2017 spend too much? Or too little?

Whatever the case, Congress is unlikely to decide on a budget for the coming year on time. Read about it in a post entitled: The Budget Debate Begins—Late.

Featured Item

Spring break continues for the House this week.

The Senate will soon begin debate on S.1890, the Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2016.

The bill would establish a federal remedy for individuals seeking relief from the misappropriation of trade secrets.

Passage of S.1890 would have a minimal effect on the U.S. federal budget.

S. 1890
The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

What People Think

Click here to vote on The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015. Click here to vote on The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015.

The Defend Trade Secrets Act of 2015
37% For, 63% Against

Vote on this Bill


Displayed below are new, updated, and passed items with their cost or savings per family.

New Items

H.R. 329
The Indian Employment, Training and Related Services Consolidation Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 3211
To provide for the addition of certain real property to the reservation of the Siletz Tribe in the State of Oregon
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 2666
The No Rate Regulation of Broadband Internet Access Act
Costs $0.00 per family

S. 1526
The Construction Consensus Procurement Improvement Act of 2015
Costs $0.08 per family


Updated Items

none


Passed Items

P.L. 114-140
The Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015
Costs $0.03 per family

P.L. 114-141
The Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2016

(0 comments | Categories: The Week Ahead » )

The Budget Debate Begins—Late

Receipts and OutlaysAs we noted in last week’s email newsletter, the House Budget Committee has produced its proposal for the federal budget for fiscal year 2017, which begins October 1st.

The House plan spends about $3.1 trillion, over $27,000 per U.S. family, and it’s not popular in the voting so far on our site—presumably because it spends so much.

But a little perspective might show that the proposal is unreasonably low.

The president’s budget, introduced back in February (a little late), proposes over $4.1 trillion in spending—a trillion more than the House plan. The House’s proposal would take federal spending back to something like the level last seen in fiscal 2009, when spending jumped in reaction to the financial crisis of 2008.

So, is the House plan too high? Or is it too low? Just right?

Your opinion is just your opinion until you do something about it. In addition to communicating with your member of Congress about what the budget plan should be, you should probably inform your friends, neighbors, and colleagues that the government’s plan for spending their money is being formed up now. And that they should get involved in the debate.

By the way, the House and Senate are supposed to finalize their budget plan by April 15th, less than two weeks from now. They are late starting the budget debate. You can have any opinion you want on that, as long as your opinion is disapproval.

Here’s the current vote on H. Con. Res. 125, the House budget proposal. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.

(2 comments | Categories: Appropriations/Budget » )

WashingtonWatch.com Digest – March 28, 2016

This is the WashingtonWatch.com email newsletter for the week of March 29, 2016. Subscribe (free!) here.

On the Blog: How Congress Works … You

There are bills that congressional leaders try to pass because they want a law. And there are bills that congressional leaders try to pass because they want an issue.

You can see some examples of both in a post entitled: “Audacious! … and Ordinary.”

Featured Item

The House and Senate will not meet this week.

Last week, the House Budget Committee reported its budget proposal for fiscal year 2017, which begins on October 1st, 2016. House Concurrent Resolution 125 calls for spending of $3,072,428,000,000 next fiscal year, or about $27,600 per U.S. family.

H. Con. Res. 125
Establishing the congressional budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2017 and setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2018 through 2026
Costs $27,612.29 per family

What People Think

Click here to vote on H. Con. Res. 125. Click here to vote on H. Con. Res. 125.

H. Con. Res. 125
25% For, 75% Against

Vote on this Bill


Displayed below are new, updated, and passed items with their cost or savings per family.

New Items

H.R. 4238
To amend the Department of Energy Organization Act and the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976 to modernize terms relating to minorities
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 3924
The Global Development Lab Act of 2015
Costs $0.40 per family

H.R. 4359
The Administrative Leave Reform Act
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 4361
The Federal Information Systems Safeguards Act of 2016
Costs $0.00 per family

S. 1916
The Rural Health Care Connectivity Act of 2015
Costs $3.01 per family

H.R. 4096
The Investor Clarity and Bank Parity Act
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 2733
The Nevada Native Nations Land Act
Saves $0.00 per family

S. 1252
The Global Food Security Act of 2015
Costs $61.52 per family

H.R. 1296
To amend the San Luis Rey Indian Water Rights Settlement Act to clarify certain settlement terms, and for other purposes
Costs $0.19 per family

H.R. 4725
The Common Sense Savings Act of 2016
Saves $223.87 per family

S. 2450
The Administrative Leave Act of 2016
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 4722
To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to require inclusion of the taxpayer’s social security number to claim the refundable portion of the child tax credit
Saves $154.14 per family

H.R. 4723
The Protecting Taxpayers by Recovering Improper Obamacare Subsidy Overpayments Act
Saves $225.47 per family

H.R. 4392
To amend title 5, United States Code, to require that the Office of Personnel Management submit an annual report to Congress relating to the use of official time by Federal employees
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 4427
To amend section 203 of the Federal Power Act
Saves $0.05 per family

H.R. 223
The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2015
Costs $11.20 per family

H.R. 4724
The Reducing Duplicative and Ineffective Federal Funding Act
Saves $125.46 per family

H.R. 4472
The Modernizing the Interstate Placement of Children in Foster Care Act
Costs $1.74 per family

H.R. 2947
The Financial Institution Bankruptcy Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family


Updated Items

S. 1109
The Truth in Settlements Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

H.R. 3361
The Department of Homeland Security Insider Threat and Mitigation Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family


Passed Items

P.L. 114-135
To amend title 36, United States Code, to make certain improvements in the congressional charter of the Disabled American Veterans
Costs $0.00 per family

P.L. 114-136
The Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

P.L. 114-137
The Competitive Service Act of 2015
Costs $0.00 per family

P.L. 114-138
A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 99 West 2nd Street in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, as the Lieutenant Colonel James “Maggie” Megellas Post Office

P.L. 114-139
A bill to direct the Secretary of State to develop a strategy to obtain observer status for Taiwan in the International Criminal Police Organization, and for other purposes
Costs $0.00 per family

(1 comment | Categories: The Week Ahead » )