Senators Reintroduce Bipartisan Bill to Increase Transparency of Federal Spending
President Biden’s nominee for OMB director testified she would champion transparency and oversight.
Senators reintroduced bipartisan legislation on Wednesday that would require agencies to make federal spending more transparent.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and ranking member Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, re-introduced the “Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act,” which would amend a 2006 law to increase the public’s access to federal agencies’ congressional budget requests by putting them on various federal websites. During the last session of Congress, the House overwhelmingly passed the bill and the Senate committee reported it favorably to the full chamber in March.
“Spending is often how the federal government makes its priorities clear, and federal agency congressional budget justifications are the plain-language requests of where and how the executive branch would like Congress to spend the American people's money,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress, a grassroots organization that advocates for modernization and accountability in government, in a press release on Wednesday. “Peters and Portman's legislation would make sure the federal government puts its money where its mouth is.”
If enacted, the legislation would require all federal agencies to post their congressional budget justifications on their websites. The Office of Management and Budget would have to create a public website to house all links to budget justifications and the Treasury Department would be required to post the agencies’ budget documents on USAspending.gov.
Currently, OMB only requires executive branch agencies to publish their congressional budget justifications online, and its website includes information just from the White House. “The lack of a designated and structured database to access congressional budget justification reports makes it difficult to determine where a particular budget justification for a particular year may be located,” said a Senate committee report on the bill. “USAspending.gov currently hosts some agencies' congressional budget justifications, but the collection is not exhaustive.”
President Biden tapped Neera Tanden, currently president and CEO of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress, to be OMB director. She pledged to champion transparency and oversight with the budget, coronavirus spending and the rulemaking process during her confirmation hearings before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday and Senate Budget Committee on Wednesday.
During a line of questioning by Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., on Wednesday, she promised to respond to questions from either party and the Government Accountability Office in a timely manner; respect the “Impoundment Control Act,” which prevents the executive branch from withholding funds for policy reasons and outlines a process if agencies seek to delay funds appropriated by Congress; respect the career staff at OMB; and, if she is still OMB director at the at the end of administration, fully cooperate with the transition to next administration, regardless of the party.
Those were all issues under President Trump, although Kaine did not mention him by name.