Bill Granting GAO More Power Clears House

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., left, and the committee's ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., left, and the committee's ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A bill to strengthen the Government Accountability Office’s powers passed the House unanimously Monday evening.

The GAO Improvement Act (H.R. 1162), which would increase the comptroller general’s investigative and audit authorities, did not face any opposition from the lower chamber, passing 408-0.

The bill, which will now move to the Senate, would provide GAO with broader access to sensitive federal agency information, enable it to make copies of records and allow it to place witnesses under certain types of oaths for investigations.

Many provisions of the legislation were included in the DATA Act in the last congressional session, when it cleared the House but failed in the Senate. That bill, however, also included proposals to strip some guidance-writing power from the Office of Management and Budget and to increase government spending transparency.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Ranking Member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., co-sponsored the current version of the bill.

“Congress is responsible for holding federal agencies accountable for the way they spend taxpayer dollars, and GAO is Congress’ investigative arm,” Cummings said in a statement when the bill was introduced.  “This legislation gives GAO investigators the tools they need to do their job in order to root out waste, fraud and abuse.”

Sen. Clare McCaskill, D-Mo., sponsored a similar bill in 2011, which cleared the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee but never made it to the full Senate. A spokesman for McCaskill said the senator will review the House-passed bill to “ensure it’s consistent with her priorities.”

The 2011 version received bipartisan support in committee and was supported by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., the current Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee chairman. 

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