The House approved two separate bills attempting to limit federal conferences, citing recent examples of employees misusing funds.
The Government Spending Accountability Act passed the House unanimously by voice vote. The bill would cap the amount an agency can spend on a single conference at $500,000, unless the agency head determines a more pricey conference is justified. It would also cut spending on travel expenses at each agency by 30 percent of the fiscal 2010 level.
“We’re not paying for federal employees to go on vacation,” Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas, said.
The House passed additional bills in response multiple scandals at the Internal Revenue Service. The Stop Playing on Citizen’s Cash Act places a moratorium on all conferences at the IRS until the agency has implemented all the recommendations made by its inspector general in a recent report. In that report, the IRS IG found employees misused hundreds of thousands of dollars in a 2010 conference, including on an infamous Star Trek parody video.
IRS employees also faced bipartisan blowback for their involvement in political targeting while auditing non-profit groups. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights Act would require the IRS commissioner to remind all employees of the rights afforded to the American taxpayer. The Stop Targeting Our Politics IRS Act would enable the agency to fire any employee who takes unfair political action in an official capacity.
Finally, both parties agreed on the Government Customer Service Improvement Act, which the House backed in the last Congress but without enough time for the Senate to take it up. The bill would direct the Office of Management and Budget to create governmentwide standards for customer service, including targets for response times to emails, phone calls and letters, as well as benefits processing and payment allocation.
The House also considered several bills that targeted federal employees across government as part of the Republican-backed “Stop Government Abuse Week.” Those bills were expected to clear the lower chamber without any Democratic support.