Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006

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The Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (S. 2590)[1] is an Act of Congress that requires the full disclosure of all entities or organizations receiving federal funds beginning in fiscal year (FY) 2007 on a website maintained by the Office of Management and Budget. This bill was introduced by Senator Tom Coburn, for himself and Senators Barack Obama, Tom Carper and John McCain on April 6, 2006[2] and passed unanimously in the Senate on September 7, 2006 and was passed in the House on September 13, 2006. The bill was signed into law by President George W. Bush on September 26, 2006.[3] In August 2006, there was a "secret hold" on the legislation placed by Senators Ted Stevens[4] and Robert Byrd.[5] The Congressional Budget Office estimates S. 2590 will cost $15 million over its authorized time period of 2007–2011.[6] The website USAspending.gov opened in December 2007 as a result of the act.

Description

The bill states in part:[7]

Not later than January 1, 2008, the Office of Management and Budget shall, in accordance with this section, section 204 of the E-Government Act of 2002 (Public Law 107-347; 44 U.S.C. 3501 note), and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy Act (41 U.S.C. 403 et seq.), ensure the existence and operation of a single searchable website, accessible by the public at no cost to access, that includes for each Federal award--
(A) the name of the entity receiving the award;
(B) the amount of the award;
(C) information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, the North American Industry Classification System code or Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance number (where applicable), program source, and an award title descriptive of the purpose of each funding action;
(D) the location of the entity receiving the award and the primary location of performance under the award, including the city, State, congressional district, and country;
(E) a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award and of the parent entity of the recipient, should the entity be owned by another entity; and
(F) any other relevant information specified by the Office of Management and Budget.

Sponsors in the Senate

In addition to Coburn, Obama, Carper and McCain, there were 43 other Senators who co-sponsored this bill:[7] Lamar Alexander, George Allen, Max Baucus, Evan Bayh, Jeff Bingaman, Barbara Boxer, Sam Brownback, Richard Burr, Maria Cantwell, Saxby Chambliss, Hillary Clinton, Norm Coleman, Susan Collins, John Cornyn, Larry Craig, Jim DeMint, Mike DeWine, Chris Dodd, Elizabeth Dole, Dick Durbin, Mike Enzi, Russ Feingold, Bill Frist, Chuck Grassley, Chuck Hagel, Johnny Isakson, John Kerry, Jon Kyl, Mary Landrieu, Joe Lieberman, Mitch McConnell, Bob Menendez, Bill Nelson, Harry Reid, Ken Salazar, Rick Santorum, Jeff Sessions, Olympia Snowe, John Sununu, Jim Talent, Craig Thomas, John Thune, David Vitter and George Voinovich.

Legislative history

Senate

S. 2590 was introduced in the Senate on April 6, 2006 and then sent to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, and International Security. Hearings were held in the subcommittee on July 18, 2006 and S. 2590 was then sent to the full committee. In the full committee hearings were held and an amendment was added on July 27, 2006. On August 2, 2006, S. 2590 was placed on legislative calendar 576.[8] Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist announced on August 31, 2006 that he would be bringing S. 2590 to a vote in the Senate sometime in September 2006 despite any holds on the bill.[9] On September 7, 2006 S. 2590 passed unanimously in the Senate.[10]

House

S. 2590 introduced in the House on September 8, 2006. It was agreed upon and passed on five days later and S.Con.Res. 114 was agreed to and passed by both the House and the Senate on the same day.[1][11]

"Secret hold"

Some time after August 2, 2006, Senators Ted Stevens, a Republican, and Robert Byrd, a Democrat, placed "secret holds" on S. 2590, which under Senate Rules prevents a vote on this act or its amendments. On August 17, 2006, Coburn identified Stevens as "the only senator blocking [the Bill]" at a Town hall meeting in Oklahoma,[12] but this did not become widely known for nearly two weeks.

Prompted by political blogs, various individuals contacted their Senators to determine if they placed the "secret hold" on S. 2590.[13][14][15] The effort was an unusual example of bipartisan collaboration on the internet with the right-leaning blogs Porkbusters and GOPProgress[16] actively working with left-leaning TPMmuckraker. On August 30, 2006, after he had been identified as the only suspect by Porkbusters and one of two suspects by TPMmuckraker, a spokesman for Stevens confirmed that he placed a hold.[4] The following day, Senator Byrd (TPMmuckraker's other suspect) also admitted to placing a hold stating that he had wanted to have more time to look at the legislation; he had lifted the hold by the time of the announcement.[5] Stevens subsequently lifted his hold.

Presidential action

President George W. Bush signed the bill into law on September 26, 2006.[8] In attendance at the signing were Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, Chairwoman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, House Majority Whip Roy Blunt R-MO-7, Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL., Sen. Tom Carper, D-DE., Rep. Jeb Hensarling R-TX-5., and Rep. Henry Waxman D-CA-30.[17]

Sister bill in the House

H.R. 5060, an amendment to the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999, was passed by the House of Representatives on June 21, 2006 and sent to the Senate. H.R. 5060 can be considered a sister bill to S. 2590, but it is weaker than S. 2590 because it only considers federal grants.[18] This bill died when S. 2590 was passed by the House and S.Con.Res. 114 was passed by the House and Senate because S. 2590 considers a superset of the actions of H.R. 5060.

Implementation

The legislation delegated responsibility for creating the website to the Office of Management and Budget. Around the time of the Act's passage, OMB Watch, a government watchdog group, was developing a site that would do essentially everything the legislation required.[19] Gary Bass, director of OMB Watch, contacted Robert Shea, associate director of the OMB, offering to help with development of the new site. Shea was initially reluctant to collaborate with Bass, in part because OMB Watch is typically critical of the OMB, but eventually it was determined that the government site would be based on what OMB Watch was developing, with the group being paid $600,000 for their technology.[19]

As of early 2008, the government's site, USASpending.gov, offers the same data, API, and (for the most part) documentation as the OMB Watch site, fedspending.org.

Strengthening of the transparency bill in 2008

The sponsors of the first bill Tom Coburn and Senators Barack Obama, Tom Carper and John McCain are sponsoring another bill in 2008 that will strengthen the USAspending.com website by enacting the following:[20]

  • Improving application programming interface and website data elements.
  • Improving data quality.
  • Recipient performance transparency.

External links

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 "Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (S. 2590) Summary". THOMAS.gov. http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:S.2590:. Retrieved on August 29. 
  2. "Congressional Record Senate April 6 2006 S3239". http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getpage.cgi?dbname=2006_record&page=S3239&position=all:. 
  3. President Bush Signs Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act The White House, September 26, 2006
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Sen. Stevens is 'the secret senator'". CNN. http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/08/30/secret.senators/. Retrieved on August 30. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Rebecca Carr. "Byrd Admits He Placed A Hold, Now Lifts It". Palm Beach Post. http://www.palmbeachpost.com/blogs/content/shared-blogs/washington/washington/entries/2006/08/31/byrd_admits_he.html. Retrieved on August 31. 
  6. "Congressional Budget Office Cost Estimate S.2590 (August 9, 2006)". Congressional Budget Office. http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=7483&sequence=0. Retrieved on September 1. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 (S. 2590) Text". GPO. http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_bills&docid=f:s2590rs.txt.pdf. Retrieved on August 29. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 "All Congressional Action on S. 2590". THOMAS.gov. http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SN02590:@@@X. Retrieved on August 29. 
  9. Bill Frist, M.D.. "Now is the Time to Act on S. 2590". Volunteer Political Action Committee (VOLPAC). http://www.volpac.org/index.cfm?FuseAction=Blogs.View&Blog_id=438. Retrieved on September 1. 
  10. Bill Frist, M.D.. "A Triumph for Transparency in Government". Volunteer Political Action Committee (VOLPAC). http://volpac.org/index.cfm?FuseAction=Blogs.View&Blog_id=451. Retrieved on September 7. 
  11. "Senate Concurrent Resolution 114 Summary". THOMAS.gov. http://www.congress.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:SC00114:@@@X. Retrieved on September 14. 
  12. Dug Begley. "Coburn Critical Of Colleagues". Times Record of Fort Smith, Arkansas. http://www.swtimes.com/articles/2006/08/18/week_in_review/news/friday/news04.txt. Retrieved on August 30. 
  13. "TPMmuckraker's "Secret Hold" Tally". TPMmuckraker.com. http://tpmmuckraker.com/secret_hold.php. Retrieved on August 29. 
  14. Paul Kiel. "Blogosphere Unites in Pursuit of Masked Senator". TPMmuckraker.com. http://www.tpmmuckraker.com/archives/001428.php. Retrieved on August 29. 
  15. "Who is the Secret Holder?". porkbusters.org. http://www.porkbusters.org/secrethold.php. Retrieved on August 29. 
  16. Liz Mair. "We need S. 2590. So won't the secret holder please stand up?". GOPProgress. http://www.gopprogress.com/story/2006/8/25/9753/25337. Retrieved on September 7. 
  17. "Bush signs transparency bill". TimChapmanBlog. http://timchapmanblog.com/2006/09/26/bush-signs-transparency-bill/. Retrieved on September 26. 
  18. "Amendment to the Federal Financial Assistance Management Improvement Act of 1999 Summary". THOMAS.gov. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d109:H.R.5060:. Retrieved on August 29. 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Elizabeth Williamson (December 13, 2007). "OMB Offers an Easy Way to Follow the Money". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/12/AR2007121202701.html?nav=rss_politics/fedpage. Retrieved on 2008-01-21. 
  20. 2008 Strengthening Bill Language