In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) introduced this legislation to give American taxpayers a better understanding of how their tax dollars are spent:
“All too often taxpayer dollars go down a black hole at agencies across the federal government. Every dime that Michigan taxpayers send to Washington should be accounted for in a transparent way. Having this information at our fingertips provides an opportunity to evaluate and streamline programs, eliminate waste, and improve outcomes.”
Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who has been working on this legislation since coming to Congress in 2011, is the sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion. He adds:
“Accountability to the American taxpayers in Washington, DC, is in short supply. The Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act seeks to restore trust that taxpayer dollars sent to Washington are used efficiently and effectively. Our bill ensures Congress can provide thorough oversight of federal spending, help showcase good stewardship of tax dollars, and provide additional necessary details to root out duplication, inefficiency, and waste. This bill has been one of my top priorities for long-term transparency of otherwise opaque federal spending. Oklahomans need to know what Washington is doing with their money. This bill gives taxpayers, Congress, agency leaders, and watchdog organizations information in a central inventory. I look forward to full consideration of this bill in the House and Senate.”
Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH), lead Democratic sponsor of this bill’s Senate companion, expressed her support during its July 2019 committee markup:
“I’m really encouraged by this committee’s willingness to take up and pass common sense reforms to make the federal government run more efficiently and save taxpayer dollars and that we’re doing it in a bipartisan way.”
The Blue Dog Coalition — an alliance of Democrats that believes in fiscal responsibility in the form of relatively limited government spending — supports this legislation. In October 2019, its co-chair for communications, Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), said:
“The American people deserve to know how their taxpayer dollars are being spent. In order to start getting our fiscal house in order, we must ensure Congress can better provide strong oversight on federal spending. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation provides critical information that Congress needs in order to identify and eliminate duplication, inefficiency, and waste.”
Government Accountability Office (GAO) Comptroller Gene Dodaro — who believes that his agency doesn’t currently have enough information to make the best possible recommendations for making spending as efficient as possible — expressed support for this legislation in 2018.
Senate Democratic leadership has opposed this legislation since the Obama years. In 2013, then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) objected to this legislation. In 2016, this legislation was blocked again.
Most recently, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) objected to this legislation in the 115th Congress, citing a “serious objection with the reporting requirements.” He argued that reporting on programs, costs, and performance wouldn’t make it any easier to discern what programs are and aren’t working, suggesting that this bill would only add to agencies’ workloads and reporting requirements without making them more effective. Sen. Schumer also raised concerns that the information produced by this legislation could lead to the “slashing of programs.”
This bill has six bipartisan House cosponsors, including four Democrats and two Republicans. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), passed the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs with the support of 10 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including seven Republicans and three Democrats.
In the 115th Congress, this bill had 24 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 21 Republicans and three Democrats, and passed the House by voice vote but didn’t receive a Senate vote. Its Senate companion, sponsored by Sen. Lankford, passed the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs with the support of 11 bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including seven Republicans and four Democrats.
Summary by Lorelei Yang(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / AdShooter)