In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress as part of a package of five ethics and transparency bills (including the NOPE Act, Taxpayers DIME Act, Protecting Defense Dollars Act, and NO FLIGHTS Act) aimed at cleaning up corruption in D.C. and restoring faith in Congress. The bill package aims to crack down on lawmakers’ and bureaucrats’ use of private jets and first-class flights, end the revolving door from Congress to lucrative lobbying jobs, protect Department of Defense (DOD) funds from being used for unethical travel, end special perks for members of Congress, prevent government shutdowns, and protect the independent Office of Congressional ethics from political threats. Rep. O'Halleran says of the package:
“When I was elected to Congress, I made a commitment to clean up Washington and end the special taxpayer-funded perks for elected officials and bureaucrats. The first bills I introduced would have protected an ethics watchdog office, banned first-class flights for members of Congress, and frozen Congressional salaries, among other things, and I am proud to re-introduce them today. We must hold our government leaders to the highest standards, and with so many high-profile ethics violations in the past years, it is clear we have failed to do that. No matter who controls Congress or the White House, we have to hold everyone accountable regardless of party. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to increase transparency in Washington.”
In a March 2019 op-ed in the White Mountain Independent, Rep. O'Halleran further expounded on the need for this bill package:
"The American people are best served by a government that is focused on the needs of our country, not politicians only seeking to enrich themselves. I am committed to holding every government official accountable and increasing transparency in Washington, and I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this important legislation."
Last Congress, Rep. O'Halleran argued that this bill was needed to increase transparency and oversight of government travel and strengthen existing rules against wasteful air travel by officials that violates federal travel regulations:
“Taxpayers are rightfully outraged by the disturbing practice of government officials wasting their hard-earned dollars on government and private jets to travel the country. It is time to put an end to this. The Taxpayers DIME Act strengthens rules against wasteful government spending and brings greater transparency to how agency resources for government travel are used or abused. Those who serve the American people, regardless of political affiliation, must be held to the highest ethical standard, and I will continue pushing for greater transparency and accountability in Washington.”
In a letter to his Congressional colleagues seeking cosponsors for this bill in the 115th Congress, Rep. O'Halleran wrote that this bill is needed to ensure federal agencies' resources are used appropriately:
"Regardless of party, those who serve the American public must be held to the highest ethical standards. Our ability to hold government officials accountable to taxpayers is a hallmark of our democracy, and we must work to uphold that principle. The resources invested to agencies to fulfill their missions of serving our constituents should not be abused or frivolously flaunted for personal gain or convenience."
This bill, along with Rep. O'Halleran's Protecting Defense Dollars Act, was included in H.R. 1, the For the People Act as amendments. After his three amendments to H.R. 1 passed the House by a unanimous vote on March 3, 2019, Rep. O'Halleran said:
"When I was elected to Congress, I made a commitment to Arizonans that I would hold Washington accountable to the American people and increase transparency. By passing my legislation today, we are delivering results and ensuring the hardworking families in my district that, regardless, of party, leaders in Washington will be held to task when it comes to spending their tax dollars. After years of hearing reports that senior government officials were misusing tax dollars for lavish travel, it is clear that we need to exercise our oversight responsibilities."
This legislation doesn't have any cosponsors in the 116th Congress. Last Congress, it had the support of six Democratic cosponsors in the House and didn't receive a committee vote.
Of Note: The Federal Travel Regulations (FTR) outline the rules that govern senior federal officials' and agencies' processes for requesting, approving, and using government aircraft for both official and non-official travel. However, as Rep. O'Halleran wrote in a letter to his Congressional colleagues seeking cosponsors for this bill in the 115th Congress, "[r]eports continue to illustrate that executive branch officials abuse government travel and aircraft rules for official and personal travel."
Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned after it was revealed he spent more than $400,000 on charter jets between May and September.
Summary by Eric Revell(Photo Credit: yoh4nn / iStock)