April 10, 2014

DATA Act Passes Senate

By Daniel Schuman

DATA ActJust a few moments ago, the Senate passed landmark federal spending transparency legislation. The Digital Accountability and Transparency Act offers to bring an unprecedented level of clarity and disclosure to the federal government's expenditures. The DATA Act broadens and deepens the kinds of spending information that must be disclosed and creates accountability mechanisms that ensure information is timely and accurate. We and a coalition of organizations have repeatedly endorsed the measure and are pleased to see it move forward.

In a Congress where progress often is elusive, Republican and Democratic leaders in the House and Senate have worked together to overcome bureaucratic objections and craft real reform. The Senate bill was originally sponsored by Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rob Portman (R-OH), and gained the strong support of the leadership of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, notably Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Tom Coburn (R-OK).  In the House, the legislation originated with Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), who chairs the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, was co-sponsored and supported by ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and was joined by many others.

The core ideas underpinning the DATA Act are simple and powerful. Require agencies to report how they handle money. Make sure those reports are comprehensive, timely, accurate, and reported in consistent ways. Empower the Treasury to gather and publish this information, setting rules for how it must be reported. Require GAO and agency inspectors general to periodically review how well the reporting system functions. Empower the public and Congress to access and analyze spending information.

The legislation that passed the Senate differs in significant ways from the House. But both bills are united in ensuring progress and accountability, and have more in common than they differ. They also rightly reject bureaucratic attempts to undermine the legislation while addressing any valid concerns that were raised.

We believe the two chambers will speedily resolve their differences and expect that President Obama soon will have the opportunity to sign the legislation into law. If he does, this may be the most significant transparency bill that thus far has been enacted by the 113th Congress.

The issue of accountable and transparent government unites political leaders of all ideologies. We are so pleased to see this important legislation advance. It is a testament to the Members of Congress, staff, and public advocates who worked tirelessly to make it happen.


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