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Archive for the ‘Appropriations/Budget’ Category

You Don’t Get to See the Important Work

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Congress is back from its summer recess, and it has an aggressive schedule this week. None of the many bills up for consideration deal with the big issue though: federal spending in fiscal 2015.

The new fiscal year starts October 1st, and Congress hasn’t passed a single one of the annual spending bills.

Most likely, sometime between now and the end of the month, congressional leaders will produce a “continuing resolution.” That is, they will continue spending at current levels, with tweaks here and there, for some weeks or months while they hammer out real plans for next year.

Kitchen SinkThat’s not how it’s supposed to be. Congress is supposed to pass spending bills during the summer. Doing so allows agencies to plan, and it makes your participation in spending decisions more possible. But it’s gotten to be Congress’s habit to not finish its work, handing the spending power to a small group of congressional leaders at the last minute.

So, instead of the continuing resolution, the terms of which we know nothing about, here are all the bills the House will be debating this week (along with their sponsor, the House committee that considered them, and their costs, where available).

Keep yourself busy on these, as you don’t get to see the most important work.

S. 231, the Multinational Species Conservation Funds Semipostal Stamp Reauthorization (Sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 4939, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2551 Galena Avenue in Simi Valley, California, as the “Neil Havens Post Office” (Sponsored by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 4651, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 601 West Baker Road in Baytown, Texas as the “Specialist Keith Erin Grace Jr. Memorial Post Office” (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 2819, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 275 Front Street in Marietta, Ohio, as the “Veterans Memorial Post Office Building” (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson (R-OH) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 5089, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 2000 Mulford Road in Mulberry, Florida, as the “Sergeant First Class Daniel M. Ferguson Post Office” (Sponsored by Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 2678, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 10360 Southwest 186th Street in Miami, Florida, as the “Larcenia J. Bullard Post Office Building” (Sponsored by Rep. Joe Garcia (D-FL) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 5019, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 1335 Jefferson Road in Rochester, New York, as the “Specialist Theodore Matthew Glende Post Office” (Sponsored by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 4443, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 90 Vermilyea Avenue, in New York, New York, as the “Corporal Juan Mariel Alcantara Post Office Building” (Sponsored by Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 3957, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 218-10 Merrick Boulevard in Springfield Gardens, New York, as the “Cynthia Jenkins Post Office Building” (Sponsored by Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 78, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4110 Almeda Road in Houston, Texas, as the “George Thomas ‘Mickey’ Leland Post Office Building” (Sponsored by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 4189, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 4000 Leap Road in Hilliard, Ohio, as the “Master Sergeant Shawn T. Hannon and Master Sergeant Jeffrey J. Rieck and Veterans Memorial Post Office Building”, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Stivers (R-OH) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 5030, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 13500 SW 250 Street in Princeton, Florida, as the “Corporal Christian A. Guzman Rivera Post Office Building” (Sponsored by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 5106, Designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 100 Admiral Callaghan Lane in Vallejo, California, as the “Philmore Graham Post Office Building” (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) / Oversight and Government Reform Committee)

H.R. 2495, American Super Computing Leadership Act, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Randy Hultgren (R-IL) / Science Committee)

H.R. 5309, Tsunami Warning, Education, and Research Act of 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) / Science Committee)

H.R. 744, Stopping Tax Offenders and Prosecuting Identity Theft Act of 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) / Judiciary Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 3109, To amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to exempt certain Alaskan Native articles from prohibitions against sale of items containing nonedible migratory bird parts (Sponsored by Rep. Don Young (R-AK) / Natural Resources Committee) – saves $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 4283, To amend the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act to authorize the Secretary of the Interior to maintain or replace certain facilities and structures for commercial recreation services at Smith Gulch in Idaho (Sponsored by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) / Natural Resources Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.J. Res. 120 – Approving the location of a memorial to commemorate the more than 5,000 slaves and free Black persons who fought for independence in the American Revolution (Sponsored by Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-NC) / Natural Resources Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 4527, To remove a use restriction on land formerly a part of Acadia National Park that was transferred to the town of Tremont, Maine (Sponsored by Rep. Michael Michaud (D-ME) / Natural Resources Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 4751, To make technical corrections to Public Law 110‐229 to reflect the renaming of the Bainbridge Island Japanese American Exclusion Memorial (Sponsored by Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) / Natural Resources Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 5057, EPS Service Parts Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) / Energy and Commerce Committee) – costs $0.06 per U.S. family

S. 276, A bill to reinstate and extend the deadline for commencement of construction of a hydroelectric project involving the American Falls Reservoir (Sponsored by Sen. James Risch (R-ID) / Energy and Commerce Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 5161, The E-LABEL Act (Sponsored by Rep. Bob Latta (R-OH) / Energy and Commerce Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 4067, To provide for the extension of the enforcement instruction on supervision requirements for outpatient therapeutic services in critical access and small rural hospitals through 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) / Energy and Commerce Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 4701, The Vector-Borne Disease Research Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014, as amended (Sponsored by Rep. Chris Gibson (R-NY) / Energy and Commerce Committee) – costs $2.90 per U.S. family

H.R. 4290, The Wakefield Act of 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) / Energy and Commerce Committee) – costs $1.12 per U.S. family

H.R. 3670, Anti-Spoofing Act of 2013 (Sponsored by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) / Energy and Commerce Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 669, Sudden Unexpected Death Data Enhancement and Awareness Act (Sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) / Energy and Commerce Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H.R. 5078, The Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act of 2014 (Sponsored by Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL) / Transportation and Infrastructure Committee) – costs $0.00 per U.S. family

H. Res. 644, Condemning and disapproving of the Obama administration’s failure to comply with the lawful statutory requirement to notify Congress before releasing the Taliban 5 (Subject to a Rule) (Sponsored by Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) / Armed Services Committee)

H.R. 3522, The Employee Health Care Protection Act of 2013 (Sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) / Energy and Commerce Committee / Ways and Means Committee)

Time for YOU to do Some Lobbying

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

handshakeCongress is on its summer recess. That means House members and senators are home meeting with constituents, kissing babies, and doing what they do.

Policymaking doesn’t stop during August, though. In fact, this is when the organized interests really turn it up.

No longer is it Washington lobbyists leaning on our representatives in Congress. The home-town side is doing that work. Business leaders, hospital officials, union members, and lots of other interests are going into congressional offices and making the pitch for what they want from federal policymakers.

So why don’t you do it, too?

Whatever you care about, this is the time to call your congressman at the home office and give him or her a piece of your mind.

If you haven’t got an issue you want to talk about already, how about the annual spending process?

The new fiscal year starts October 1st. That means that Congress, when it returns, has only the month of September to get the spending plan completed. So far, no appropriations bill for fiscal 2015 have passed.

What’s the message you want to take to your representative? How about: “Hey! Finish the spending bills on time!”

But if you want, you can be even more specific. Below is a list of the currently pending appropriations bills and how much they spend. Maybe you can say you want more money spent in some areas and less spent in others.

It’s the summer time—a great time to be your own lobbyist.

Agriculture Appropriations
H.R. 4800 – spends $1,217 per U.S. family
S. 2389 – spends $1,216 per U.S. family

Commerce/Justice/Science Appropriations
H.R. 4660 – spends $584 per U.S. family
S. 2437 – spends $584 per U.S. family

Defense Appropriations
H.R. 4870 – spends $5,259 per U.S. family

Energy & Water Appropriations
H.R. 4923 – spends $357 per U.S. family

Financial Services Appropriations
H.R. 5016 – spends $417 per U.S. family

Homeland Security Appropriations
H.R. 4903 – spends $437 per U.S. family
S. 2534 – spends $436 per U.S. family

Interior & Environment Appropriations
H.R. 5171 – spends $309 per U.S. family

Legislative Branch Appropriations
H.R. 4487 – spends $34 per U.S. family

Military/Veterans Appropriations
H.R. 4486 – spends $1,520 per U.S. family

State/Foreign Operations Appropriations
H.R. 5013 – spends $426 per U.S. family
S. 2499 – spends $437 per U.S. family

Transportation/HUD Appropriations
H.R. 4745 – spends $1,119 per U.S. family
S. 2438 – spends $1,126 per U.S. family

Money Moves

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

spending moneyCongress has begun its August recess. Let’s take a look at some bills that it recently advanced. New cost estimates change the amount of money they would cause to be spent. It’s your money, so pay attention!

H.R. 5230 is a supplemental spending bill. It’s called the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2014, but it’s known as the “Secure the Southwest Border Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2014.” It’s the House of Representatives’ response to the crisis at the United States’ southern border, which is seeing an influx of unaccompanied Central American children.

The bill is the brainchild of House Appropriations Committee chairman Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY).

When it was introduced, the bill contained total spending of $239,000,000. That was to come as $25,000,000 spent in fiscal 2014, over half-a-billion in 2015, and then reductions in spending over the ensuing years. The result was that H.R. 5230 would cost $2.59 per U.S. family.

The version that passed the House was slightly different. The new version spends $25,000,000 in fiscal 2014, a whopping $561,000,000 in 2015, but then cuts spending even more in future years, for a grand total of $241,000,000 in spending. That reduction in spending means that the bill would cost the average U.S. family $2.58 — one penny less than the earlier version.

The bill goes to the Senate now, where a very different bill is pending. S. 2648 is Senator Barbara Mikulski’s (D-MD) spending bill aimed at the border crisis. We’ll see if the House and Senate can get together on a bill when they return in September.

Speaking of getting together on a bill, the House and Senate have come together on H.J. Res. 76. The bill started its life as the National Nuclear Security Administration Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2014. Introduced by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), it was one of the miniature spending bills the House used tactically in its stand-off with the Senate over the annual spending bills last year. That version of the bill promised to spend about $7 billion, or $68 per U.S. family.

But it’s a different bill today. H.J. Res. 76 is now known as the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Resolution, 2014, and its purpose is to provide funding to Israel for the Iron Dome defense system to counter short-range rocket threats.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Senator Mikulski’s bill addressing the southern border included money for Israel’s defense system, too.

The House and Senate may not see eye to eye on what to do at the southern border, but they do agree, apparently, about providing Israel funds it needs for protection from incoming missiles. Having passed both houses, H.J. Res. 76 was forwarded to the president, and he signed it into law last week. The new version spends about $225 million this year and next, a cost of $2.18 per U.S. family.

The Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act and the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Resolution. What’s the emergency? Declaring a bill “emergency” allows Congress to get around spending limits it has tried to impose on itself.

Below you can see the current votes on these two bills. Click so you can vote yourself, add comments, edit the wiki articles, or learn more about the bills.

The Bills Keep Rolling In

Sunday, July 6th, 2014

stack-of-moneyThough Congress was out last week, another spending bill was introduced, and we found cost information for another. So let’s take a further look at Congress’s unfolding spending plans.

If you want to see what’s happened so far, take a look at the chart in our post from last week, “Appropriations Progress!

The newest bill is H.R. 5016, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, 2015. Introduced by Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-FL), it funds a long list of agencies and activities of government, to the tune of about $415 per U.S. family. Take a look:

Department of the Treasury
District of Columbia
The Judiciary
Executive Office of the President (including Council of Economic Advisers, Office of Management and Budget, Office of National Drug Control Policy, and the White House)
Administrative Conference of the United States
Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation
Consumer Product Safety Commission
Election Assistance Commission
Federal Communications Commission
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Office of the Inspector General
Federal Election Commission
Federal Labor Relations Authority
Federal Trade Commission
General Services Administration
Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation
Merit Systems Protection Board
Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation
National Archives and Records Administration
National Credit Union Administration
Office of Government Ethics
Office of Personnel Management and Related Trust Funds
Office of Special Counsel
Postal Regulatory Commission
Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board
Recovery and Accountability Transparency Board
Securities and Exchange Commission
Selective Service System
Small Business Administration
United States Postal Service, Payment to the Postal Service Fund
United States Tax Court
General Provisions, Government-wide

And here’s…

Next there’s S. 2499, the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015. It would spend about $435 per U.S. family on the State Department—and so much more. The bill was introduced by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

Here’s the current vote on S. 2499. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.

Appropriations Progress!

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

pile-of-moneyJust under the wire!

That’s how the House’s State Department/Foreign Operations appropriations bill came in. It was reported to the House Friday, bringing the House to nine of twelve annual spending bills that have at least been prepared for House floor debate ahead of the July 4th week.

The last several years, Congress has almost always failed to follow the ordinary spending process. In that process, after Congress agrees to a budget, the House and Senate each pass the multiple appropriations (spending) bills that fund the various parts of the federal government. The bills are supposed to pass during the summer, providing agencies in the executive branch plenty of time to prepare for their new budgetary situation when the new fiscal year starts October 1st.

To demonstrate responsible management, the House Appropriations Committee‘s chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said earlier this year that he would move all bills out of his committee before the August recess.

With the State/Foreign Ops bill reported on Friday, he’s gotten most of the bills out before the July 4th holiday. Fireworks! He’s on track.

Below is a table showing each of the appropriations bills and its current status. As you can see, the House has already passed five appropriations bills. The other four listed have been reported—that is, reported by the committee to the full House for debate.

The Senate is not doing too badly, though it’s definitely behind. Five bills have been reported and, in the case of another two, the Senate plans to take up the House bill, which is perfectly fine. (In one case, the Senate has a reported bill but plans to debate the House bill.) The Senate hasn’t passed any appropriations bills yet.

There are gaps, of course. Neither the House nor the Senate has produced a Financial Services/General Government bill. And neither has a Labor/Health and Human Services bill. Labor/HHS is usually the biggest bill of the year (just ahead of Defense), and it always seems to come along last.

Getting the appropriations bills done on time is good. This is not only so agencies can plan for the coming fiscal year, but so that the public has a little more of a chance to oversee Congress’s work. When the bills aren’t done and Congress has to do continuing resolutions and omnibus bills to keep the government running, the public is shut out of what is already a very arcane process.

Click on the bills in the table below to see how much they spend, to comment on them, and to vote them up or down based on your opinion of them. By clicking “Read the Bill” or “Read an Analysis of the Bill” in the “Learn More” box on each bill page, you can access the strange world of congressional spending and see all the different places the money goes…

Appropriations Bill House Senate
Agriculture H.R. 4800 – debated S. 2389 – reported
Commerce/Justice/Science H.R. 4660 – passed S. 2437 – reported (H.R. 4660 to be debated)
Defense H.R. 4870 – passed
Energy & Water H.R. 4923 – reported
Financial Svcs/Gen’l Govt
Homeland Security H.R. 4903 – reported S. 2534 – reported
Interior & Environment
Legislative Branch H.R. 4487 – passed H.R. 4487 – to be debated
Labor/HHS
Military Construction/Veterans H.R. 4486 – passed H.R. 4486 – to be debated
State/Foreign Operations H.R. 5013 – reported S. 2499 – reported
Transportation/HUD H.R. 4745 – passed S. 2438 – reported

The Big Spending Bill They Call “Minibus”

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

money up closeThe House has been plodding along, passing spending bills for the 2015 fiscal year (which begins October 1st). The bills the House has passed include the Commerce/Justice/Science spending bill (about $580 per U.S. family), Legislative Branch ($34), Military/Veterans ($1,500), and Transportation/HUD ($1,100).

The House Agriculture spending bill (about $1,200 per U.S. family) is on tap for passage soon.

Now the Senate aims to play a little catch-up by passing a small omnibus bill—a “minibus”—that is hardly small. The plan is for it to combine the Senate’s Agriculture spending bill ($1,200), Commerce/Justice/Science ($580), and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development ($1,125). That’s $2,900 per U.S. family in spending—“mini” indeed.

Putting three different Senate bills into H.R. 4660—using that bill as the “legislative vehicle” for other bills—makes things hard to track. If there is a single vote on several different bills, that makes it more difficult to pin responsibility on a representative for the decisions he or she has made. But that’s how Congress works today. And they call a large spending bill, which a family would consider very carefully, a “mini” spending bill.

Here’s where opinion stands on the three bills planned for combination into the minibus. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki articles on the bills.

Read the Bill, Commerce-Justice-Science Edition

Sunday, May 18th, 2014

A month ago, you became an appropriations expert when you took inspiration from our post, “Read the (Appropriations) Bill!“, and you scoured H.R. 4487, the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2015.

Now it’s time to do it again, with H.R. 4660, the Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015. The bill was introduced last week, and it proposes spending of about $585 per U.S. family.

Where does the money go?

Click on “Read the Bill” in the “Learn More” box on the page for H.R. 4660. And start reading!

There’s $473,000,000 for the International Trade Administration.

The bill would spend $103,500,000 on the Bureau of Industry and Security.

$210,500,000 goes to the Economic Development Administration, plus another $37,000,000 for salaries and expenses.

The Minority Business Development Agency gets $30,000,000.

There’s $99,000,000 for economic and statistical analysis programs. (Apparently, they didn’t want it to be a clean $100,000,000.)

Basic spending on the Bureau of the Census is $248,000,000. But the census programs run another $858,500,000. That’s a bit over a billion dollars.

The list of spending goes on. And it goes on. And on. Until it reaches about $61 billion dollars. That’s $585 per U.S. family.

Take a look for yourself and see what spending you like and what spending you don’t like. Then, all you have to do is let your representatives in Congress know and watch the bill change in response! If only democracy worked that well…

Here’s the current vote on H.R. 4660. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.

Where’s the Senate Budget?

Sunday, April 27th, 2014

According to the standard schedule for annual federal budgeting, we’d have a budget resolution for fiscal 2015 by now. It would set out what Congress expects government revenues and outlays to be for the fiscal year that starts on October 1st.

That doesn’t appear to be happening.

The House has moved a budget resolution. That’s H. Con. Res. 96, which calls for spending of about $27,500 per U.S. family.

But there’s no Senate Budget Resolution in sight.

The reason why appears to be that Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, doesn’t believe that a new budget is due.

When the House passed it’s budget earlier this month, she issued a press release lamenting the House’s spending priorities and mentioning the “two-year budget that set spending levels for next year.”

She’s talking about the Bipartisan Budget Act (Public Law 113-67), which became law late last year. Senator Murray believes that bill took care of fiscal 2015 budgeting.

As we reported at the time, the bill was a little bit of a budget deal and a little bit of a spending deal. You can read over the text of that bill, and you’ll find language that makes provision for the failure of Congress to produce a 2015 budget, but you won’t find a 2015 budget there.

When Senator Murray took over the Senate Budget Committee, she produced a budget for the first time in a long time. It was a positive step after her predecessor had dodged his responsibility to budget various ways. Now she seems to be walking down the same path, declining to produce a simple, straightforward budget.

She may have a serious argument, that existing law provides budgetary levels for fiscal 2015 already. But when it comes to making the Senate’s budgeting priorities available to the public, that argument is a failure. The Senate hasn’t produce a fiscal 2015 budget, and it should.

Read the (Appropriations) Bill!

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Like crocuses poking through the snow signaling the coming of spring, the first appropriations bills for fiscal year 2015 have been introduced.

H.R. 4486 is the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2015. It would spend about $1,500 per U.S. family.

And H.R. 4487 is the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act, 2015. It’s modest cost: about $34 per family.

If you’re a budding government overseer (budding like a crocus poking through the snow), the legislative branch bill offers you a little opportunity to practice your trade. You see, it’s a relatively short bill. (Short relative to other spending bills, that is.) You can read through it and have some idea of where the money goes.

Go to the page for H.R. 4487, and in the “Learn More” box, click on “Read the bill.” You can scroll through whichever bill version you like.

See how much money goes to House leadership offices, members’ representational allowances (what they spend representing you in Congress), committee employees, standing committees, and so on.

Keep reading! There’s the money for the Capitol Police, Congressional Budget Office, the Architect of the Capitol and Capitol Visitor Center. The Library of Congress runs the Copyright Office and the Congressional Research Service. There they are.

There’s more. The bill would create a “Center for Audit Excellence” in the Government Accountability Office. Think it’s a good idea? A boondoggle?

How about sending $3,420,000 to the Open World Leadership Center Trust Fund for financing activities of the Open World Leadership Center? Good idea or bad?

You can also read the committee’s report on the bill. In the “Learn More” box, click on “Read an Analysis of the Bill.”

It has a nice summary of the bill in comparison to FY 2014 spending and the president’s FY 2015 spending request. It looks like this:

The new bill spends more in some places and less in others. What do you think of the differences?

If you care enough to weigh in with your representatives and senators, you can pick an item and tell them what you think about it. Then follow along to see whether they do anything consistent with your wishes. That’s not easy, but it’s kind of your job as an American citizen, so give it a try. We’ll keep trying to make this information easier to access. You can access it right now by reading the appropriations bill!

Senate Passes Data Act

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

A major effort to improve government transparency took a step forward this past week with Senate passage of S. 994, the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2013. The House is likely to pass the bill when Congress returns at the end of April, and President Obama should sign the bill into law.

The DATA Act will require the federal government to standardize and publish all executive branch spending information. This will enable sites like ours—and many other resources—to produce better reports on how the government spends taxpayer money. Take a look at the handy video from the Data Transparency Coalition to learn more.

Online publication of federal spending information would include virtually all forms of government spending. Information would be made available in forms that are both easily searchable and downloadable. The bill requires agencies to provide data in a uniform manner. And agency compliance with the law’s mandates would be audited.

The DATA Act should facilitate increased public oversight of the federal government, flushing out waste, fraud, and abuse, and improving the effectiveness and efficiency of federal spending programs. We plan to use the data once it’s available to provide you better information about goings-on in government.

We wrote about our support for the DATA Act in the last Congress and encouraged you to help push for it in the Senate.

Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) introduced S. 994, joined by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH). The House version, H.R. 2061, is also a bipartisan bill, introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

Don’t expect instant results. The federal government is a big organization and it will take a couple of years of hard work to turn around its processes and make them more transparent. But the course set by the DATA Act is a good one.

Here’s the current vote on the DATA Act. Click to vote, comment, learn more, or edit the wiki article on the bill.