House votes to boost transparency in federal spending

The House on Monday evening passed legislation aimed at making it easier to see how much the government is spending across all federal agencies.

Members passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act, H.R. 2061, in a 388-1 vote. The bill had the bipartisan support of the House Oversight & Government Reform Committee, and won the support of all Democrats except one, Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.).

ADVERTISEMENT
The legislation builds on the USASpending.gov website, which was created in 2006 by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and then-Sen. Barack Obama. That site is a portal that the public can use to see spending trends within several agencies, although agencies are only required to report grants and contracts to that site.

The bill passed by the House today would require agencies to report all internal spending to the site in a searchable form so anyone in the public could use it.

"It is unacceptable for federal spending data currently to be so inaccurate, unpredictable, inconsistent, and quite frankly, expensive," said Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.). "Nobody can follow the money at the federal level these days, in spite of the fact that we spend over $82 billion on IT."

Both Republicans and Democrats agreed that more information about federal spending habits would help bring accountability to the government.

"With the passage of the DATA Act, we'll be be one step closer to the American people being able to hold government bureaucracies accountable," said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.).

"The DATA Act will provide the public with information about how the government is spending its money," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) agreed. "This will hold agencies accountable for their spending, and it will result in a more effective and efficient government."

The House also passed four other suspension bills up today:

— H.R. 3343, amending the District of Columbia Home Rule Act to clarify rules regarding compensation for the Chief Financial Officer of the District. The bill ensures DC has the option of providing adequate compensation for the CFO, up to the level of a senior executive service official in the federal government. Passed in voice vote.

— H.R. 3487, amending the Federal Election Campaign Act to extend the authority of the FEC to impose civil penalties. This bill extends for five years the ability of the FEC to impose fines for minor violations, like late filings, according to a set fee schedule, which allows for faster decisions. Passed in voice vote.

— S.Con.Res. 25, a resolution allowing the use of Emancipation Hall to award Native American code talkers with the Congressional Gold Medal. Passed in voice vote.

— H.R. 272, naming a future Department of Defense outpatient clinic after Gen. William Gourley. Passed 388-0.