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house Bill H.R. 22

Should Federal Agencies’ Congressional Budget Justifications be Publicly Available in a Standard, Centralized Format?

Argument in favor

Taxpayers have a right to know how federal agencies are using their dollars. Requiring federal agencies to publish their budget justifications would empower the public to find this information. Although Congress and the Office of Management and Budget are urging agencies to publish budget justifications and a site contains some of them, these efforts haven’t been successful due to lacking the force of law; this legislation would rectify that problem.

Tadros's Opinion
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01/05/2021
Everything should be transparent and next step is setting up term limits instead of lifetime appointments senator finestein 🙄
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Glowurm's Opinion
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01/06/2021
Thank you, Mike Quigley, for a bill that has addressed a problem we’ve had in years - no accountability to We, the People. It’s a start... so positively necessary...
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Frank-001's Opinion
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01/06/2021
There should and must be transparency as a general rule. Any “need” to redact must be justified in some legal manner.
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Argument opposed

Congress and the Office of Management and Budget already encourage the publication of budget justifications, so this legislation isn’t needed to encourage the publication of congressional budget justifications on agency sites. Additionally, usaspending.gov already hosts slime agencies’ budget requests, so there’s no need for this legislation to establish a new central site.

Jim2423's Opinion
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01/06/2021
This is just another Bill that already exists.
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ConcernedPatriot's Opinion
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01/06/2021
We need to reduce the overall redundant programs in government. While transparency is a cornerstone to a strong democracy, certain agency budgets should be exempt from public scrutiny because of potential national security implications.
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Don's Opinion
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01/05/2021
We already have enough government involvement,less is more...
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What is House Bill H.R. 22?

This bill would require federal agencies to make their budget justification materials (formally known as congressional budget justifications, or CJs) — which they’re already required to produce for annual budget requests — available to the public via both a centralized, searchable website and on each agency’s own website. This requirement would begin to apply to CJs starting with the second fiscal year after this bill’s enactment and moving forward. To the maximum extent possible, it would also encourage the addition of CJs from prior years to the database.

This bill would also direct the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make certain details regarding these materials available to the public. Those would include:

  • A list of the agencies that submit budget justification materials to Congress;
  • The dates of budget justification materials’ submission to Congress and the dates that they are posted online; and
  • Links to budget justification materials.

Classified materials would be exempt from this legislation.

Impact

Federal agencies; Office of Management and Budget (OMB); and congressional budget justifications (CJs)

Cost of House Bill H.R. 22

$5.00 Million
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has not provided a cost estimate for this bill. However, the CBO cost estimate for its Senate companion prior to amendment—which then contained the same legislative text as this bill—was less than $500,000 over the 2020-2025 period.

More Information

In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) reintroduced this bill from the 116th Congress to give the public access to information on the federal government’s use of taxpayer dollars and thereby improve government transparency:

“Today, congressional budget justifications are incredibly hard to find. This information is in numerous and confusing places across the internet, making it challenging to identify which agencies are required to submit justifications, let alone know whether the materials for an agency exist. This bill would provide an opportunity to conduct better oversight of our government and allow the public to learn about what agencies are doing with their hard-earned tax dollars.”

Last Congress, original cosponsor Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) added:

“Each year, Georgians entrust the government with their hard-earned tax dollars, but they’re left in the dark on where that money actually goes. By requiring federal agencies to regularly publish budget justifications on one central website, the Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act will ensure hardworking Americans have access to the information needed to evaluate how their tax dollars are being spent.”

Daniel Schuman, Policy Director at Demand Progress, expressed support for this bill, noting Congressional budget justifications’ importance in helping understand federal agency budget requests:

“Congressional budget justifications are the decoder ring for federal agency budget requests and Reps. Mike Quigley and Doug Collins have wisely introduced legislation to make sure that everyone can crack the code. The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act will require, for the first time ever, that the government keeps track of all agency spending plan explanations, whether they've been provided to Congress, and make them available at a central location for everyone to read.” 

This legislation has six bipartisan House cosponsors, including four Democrats and two Republicans, in the 117th Congress.

In the 116th Congress, this legislation passed the House by a 402-1 vote, but did not receive a vote in the Senate. It was supported by 10 bipartisan House cosponsors, including eight Democrats and two Republicans. Its Senate companion (S.2560), sponsored by Sen. Gary Peters (D-MI), passed the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs by voice vote on March 2, 2020.

Nearly 30 government accountability and oversight advocacy organizations supporting this legislation wrote a joint letter to Congressional leaders in fall 2019. These included the R Street Institute, the Campaign for Accountability, the Center for Responsive Policies, Demand Progress, and the Government Accountability Project.


Of Note: Congressional budget justifications (CJs) are plain-language explanations of federal agencies’ spending plans for the money they request from Congress. In 2018 and 2019, Congress encouraged the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to publish all executive branch Congressional budget justification materials on a centralized web portal. Additionally, recent OMB guidance has also required executive branch agencies to post their budget justification materials online.

However, despite these Congressional and OMB directives, there is currently no legal requirement for Congressional budget justifications to be posted on a centralized web portal or on agency websites. Consequently, agencies are inconsistent in posting CJs online and no centralized website hosts all CJs across agencies. Due to this, it is currently difficult to access CJs.

There is also no public list documenting the agencies and sub-agencies that are required to submit CJs or confirming those agencies’ submissions of materials to Congress. Consequently, it is difficult to identify the executive branch agencies that are required to submit CJs or to confirm agencies’ creation and submission of these materials.

In fact, a March 2019 report by Demand Progress found that some agencies weren’t consistently following the OMB’s requirements to publish their CJs on their websites. In FY2018 and FY2019, Demand Progress found that 21% of 456 federal agencies and entities surveyed did not publish CJs and another 6.1% published CJs for only one of the two years. While acknowledging that it wasn’t possible to know whether the agencies surveyed were required to publish CJs, Demand Progress contended that this limitation to its research only further indicated the lack of publicly available comprehensive information on agencies’ CJ publication requirements.

In a March 2020 report, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs found that the lack of a designated and structured database to access CJs makes it difficult to find CJs for a particular year. The Senate report found that the current site housing some CJs, usaspending.gov, is not exhaustive.

Additionally, Rep. Quigley’s office observed that because usaspending.gov links to documents on agencies’ sites instead of publishing the documents itself, the links are subject to rot when agency websites are updated or redesigned.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / NoDerog)

AKA

Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2021

Official Title

To amend the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, to require the budget justifications and appropriation requests of agencies be made publicly available.

bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
  • The house Passed January 5th, 2021
    Roll Call Vote 412 Yea / 2 Nay

    Your Representative Voted

    Rep Mrvan
    Voted yea
      house Committees
      Committee on Oversight and Reform
    IntroducedJanuary 4th, 2021

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    << 14 days, 14 hours, 20 minutes to EDALT >>. … … … Not sure that a standard format works in many cases. A lot depends upon the required detail. Our government agencies spends funds on a diverse variety of products and services and if the required reporting goes into great detail (as Congress would likely require) such budgets would be used to replace proper Congressional oversight. I prefer trusting agencies to meet the intent of congressional legislation and funding allocations - and the human judgement of Congressional oversight committees given unrestricted access to funded programs to judge whether or not objectives are being met. The budget requests of the GSA to purchase paper, pencils, computers and office equipment to inventory to meet the needs of governmental agency activities will look very different then the funding for the CDC and need to participate in world pandemic preparation and that will be a lot different than a multi year effort to build a manned base on the moon to mine He3 for safe, efficient atomic fusion power generation. It would be exceedingly hard to make any meaningful comparisons between the budgetary needs of these organizations. … … The problem is exemplified by an old comic audio with the professor representing the literature department’s needs during an annual budget meeting for the University. There was a budget item of $150 M to build a prototype proton accelerator, and several other large items needed for other departments. All that he wanted was 50 new chalk board erasers. He knew nothing about what a prototype proton accelerator should cost nor what the exotic sounding requests from other departments should cost and could not comment on the passage of these items. When it became his turn to request chalk board board erasers he found himself having to justify why 50 why not 30. Why not invest in a few white boards and on and on. The problem was that everyone knew what chalk board erasers were, how they worked and how they were used - and almost no-one knew what a prototype proton accelerator even was let alone how it should work or cost, so they could not develop any meaningful yeah or nay arguments. … … A lot of the government advanced science and research organizations are a lot like this and understanding their budget needs and benefits of their work requires human engagement and understanding that simply cannot be captured in a standardized budget list. … … … I am not arguing against transparency at all. I am arguing about the utility of a standardized list for government agencies charged with conducting non-standardized work, particularly those charged with taking on requisite high-risk high-payoff research that private business would not take on due to the inherent financial risk of so doing - such as will likely be required to thwart the climate crisis. Agencies such as these cannot be effective if they are bogged down by congressional staffers challenging the number of boxes of copy machine paper needed nor other such administrivia inherent to most bureaucracies.
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    Everything should be transparent and next step is setting up term limits instead of lifetime appointments senator finestein 🙄
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    Absolutely Federal Agency Congressional Budget Justifications should be in standard formats & publicly available. Unbelievable they aren’t already standard formats so they can be easily reviewed & compared. They should also include Cost/Benefit Analysis for evaluation. Anything involving tax dollars needs to be publicly available!
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    Yes! It’s our money. We should know how it’s being spent!!! Transparency produces accountability!
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    Thank you, Mike Quigley, for a bill that has addressed a problem we’ve had in years - no accountability to We, the People. It’s a start... so positively necessary...
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    There should and must be transparency as a general rule. Any “need” to redact must be justified in some legal manner.
    Like (9)
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    Americans deserve transparency
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    Every cent should be publicly accounted for because every cent of government held money IS OUR TAX MONEY! No money "belongs" to the government. It is the tax money of citizens.
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    Since Our Tax Dollars are paying for Everything We Deserve to Know the “what and where”.
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    It always astonishes me how antiquated/inefficient Government reporting is.
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    Transparency is always key
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    Transparency, transparency, transparency.
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    Of course! Tell us the unvarnished Truth. We can handle it.
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    Yes, all agencies should be reporting how they spend taxpayer money, and it should be easily readable for Americans to see. Let's start with the Department of Defense budget, which to my knowledge is still hidden from all.
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    Since it is the taxpayers' money, the government should be transparent about how it is spent. However, other than for information purposes, it will not be much use to the taxpayers. The most important thing is for the government to keep track of how the money is spent so that it matches up with the budgeted amounts.
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    I’ve worked in local government fir 20+years. Their budgets are always required to be publicly posted. The Federal government should be held at least to that standard.
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    Once again trumpublican Kevin Brady sucks off the government teet, but can’t be bothered to do his job‼️🖕👎. His stance on this bill? Not Voting‼️. Get off your ass dumns&$t!
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    ABSOLUTELY SHOULD HAPPEN AND ALL OF THESE DISGUSTING BILLS WITH THOUSANDS OF PAGES PACKED WITH HIDDEN PORK NEEDS TO STOP..WHY NOT PUT JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING TO A PUBLIC VOTE?? WITH THE INTERNET THIS IS PROBABLY POSSIBLE..BETTER YET>>TERM LIMITS AND NO LIFETIME PENSION>> AND BAN THE FREAKING LOBBYISTS OR AT LEAST FROM EVER BECOMING A CITIZEN REPRESENTATIVE...IF THESE DIRTY CLOWNS ARE SO WEALTHY THEY DO NOT NEED TAXPAYERS FUNDED PENSIONS NOR A+ RATED CADILLAC HEALTH INSURANCE PLANS..One year of salary to find a greedy corporation they can go work for ESPECIALLY SINCE THEY JUST VOTED THEMSELVES A $52,000 pay raise hidden in the COVID RELEIF BILL>>>GEE WHY NOT ONLY $600???
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    Absolutely!
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    Absolutely! Also, pass the "Ones Subject at a Time Act" so that each item has to be discussed and voted on based on it's own merit. No more dis-related items attached to each other. Stop the legal corruption.
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