The House passed the bipartisan bill overwhelmingly on Monday night.
The House passed a bipartisan bill on Monday evening to boost transparency of federal spending, which now goes to the president to sign.
The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act 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 2020. This session the Senate passed it by unanimous consent in June and then the House voted 423-1 to pass it on Monday. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C. was the only “no.”
“The American people must be in the driver’s seat when it comes to their government, especially how it plans to spend their money,” said Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, in a statement on Monday night. This bill “will make the budget process more transparent and accessible.”
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 (although others do so voluntarily), 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.”
Nick Hart, president of the Data Foundation, a nonprofit think tank that champions data transparency and use, said in a tweet on Monday the bill is “a long overdue plan for improving how the American people and [government] officials alike access federal budget details.”
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., and ranking member Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, applauded the bill’s passage.
“Finding out how federal agencies are spending taxpayer dollars can be extremely difficult. This lack of transparency is highly concerning and Americans and Michiganders deserve to know how these funds are used to improve their lives and livelihoods,” said Peters in a statement on Tuesday. “[I] urge the president to sign it into law as soon as possible.”