Bill requires government to use teleconferencing to cut travel budget

H.R. 2643 finds that the government spends billions of dollars each year on traveling to conferences, despite a 2011 Executive Order from President Obama that called on federal agencies to cut their travel spending by 20 percent below 2010 levels. The bill also notes that in 2012, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed agencies to cut their travel budgets in 2012 to 30 percent below 2010 levels.

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The bill finds that using video conferencing to cut travel costs is "still a largely untapped means of saving taxpayer dollars."

Under the legislation, the OMB would have to develop a plan to use video conferencing to reduce travel expenses by 50 percent from 2013 levels, or "the greatest reduction in such expenses" that the OMB sees as feasible. That plan would have to take effect starting in fiscal 2017.

The bill is sponsored by Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), and is co-sponsored by Reps. John Barrow (D-Ga.), Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Tim Griffin (R-Ark.), Jim Matheson (D-Utah), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

The latest conference scandal erupted in June, when Republicans and Democrats blasted the Internal Revenue Service for spending $50 million in conferences over the last few years. Lawmakers also criticized the IRS for spending money in 2010 to make a video parody in which several IRS workers played characters from Star Trek.

That prompted House GOP Chief Deputy Whip Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) to propose the SPOCC Act, which also aimed at stopping the IRS from spending millions on lavish junkets.