Spending bill provision would make transfers of e-gov funds easier

Lawmakers negotiating the final version of the fiscal 2006 Transportation-Treasury spending bill are considering a provision that would make it easier for agencies to transfer money to finance e-government projects.

Conferees are considering whether to include language that would free agencies to transfer money for e-government projects following the submission of a report to the appropriations committees. House-Senate negotiators began meeting last week to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill (H.R. 3058).

The Transportation-Treasury e-government provision would override language in other spending bills that prohibits agencies from transferring money to e-government projects without a 15-day advance notice to Congress. Such a section is included in the conference version of the Commerce, Justice and State fiscal 2006 spending bill, which the House has approved.

Agencies have often interpreted the advance-notice clause to mean they must wait for congressional approval before transferring e-government money. Such legislative vetoes over the executive branch decisions have been illegal since Supreme Court ruled in INS v. Chadha, but Congress typically expects agencies to comply with a de facto veto nonetheless.

"The House and Senate committees have told agencies that they shouldn't move forward with the transfer of funds for e-gov without approval," said Senate Appropriations Committee spokeswoman Jenny Manley. "Legally they can, as a general practice they do not."

During fiscal 2005, which ended Sept. 30, the Commerce Department did not transfer money for e-government until the last day of the fiscal year, despite having submitted its advance notice in March.

Lawmakers have said the notification-and-wait clause within spending bills is necessary because the e-government effort moves money from agency to agency without sufficient oversight. The Office of Management and Budget should request money for e-government projects within a separate line item and should not force agencies to pony up funds from their own appropriated accounts, many congressional sources say.

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