House bill would cut budgets of agencies that hold 'ridiculous' conferences

"At a time when families and taxpayers across America are tightening their belts, the government should be tightening its belt too," said Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). "One area we can definitely afford to cut back are the high-priced conferences that use taxpayer money to pay for such ridiculous events."

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Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) who sponsored the bill with Jordan, agreed that cutting back on needlessly expensive meetings is a step that needs to be taken in light of the government's fiscal situation.

"It's offensive that taxpayer funds would be used like a blank check by Agency heads and it's time to shut it down," she said. "We have an obligation to pinch pennies for the taxpayers of this country and there's no better place to start than on conference slush funds."

Jordan, Speier and other members were told in a 2012 hearing that government conferences costing more than $100,000 cost the government more than $276 million in 2012.

They said the Defense Department is the most frequent offender of high-priced conferences, followed by the Social Security Administration, the Department of Energy, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Agriculture. But it was GSA's conference that garnered attention in Congress last year — Jordan and Speier noted that GSA's meeting cost $820,000 and included a mind reader, a clown, a $31,000 reception and a $75,000 team-building exercise.

Under their bill, H.R. 859, agency budgets would be cut if they fund a conference that costs more than $600 a day per agency employee attending the conference or that costs more than $3,000 per agency employee in attendance.

Any spending above these levels would be cut from the budget of the agency hosting the conference.