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house Bill H.R. 4894

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.

Leslie's Opinion
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09/14/2020
Agree Congress should make all budget justifications available in the public domain. Should include sponsors, cost/benefit justifications, vote for/against and large campaign contributors of those voting for it. The US public should be able to review all the fingerprints on each budget justification.
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jimK's Opinion
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09/15/2020
Getting clear, concise overview reporting of Agency budget requests will be difficult to attain without congressional enforcement of it’s own related legislation to be clear and concise, with clear objectives and strategic imperatives. Congressional legislation suffers greatly by the availability of word processors and our litigious society’s dependence on overly detailed legislation instead of concise and carefully worded legislation with a clear strategic imperative, high level requirements and a clear statement of the legislations intent. This form of legislation is easier to understand and harder to use for hidden ‘gotchas’ buried in a footnote of sub paragraph 3 on page 1283. Also, this form of legislation is harder to use as an advertisement for one thing by it’s title, while the actual legislated details do the exact opposite (beware of the details of any trumpublican legislation with a good sounding title- just like the trumpublican party, it is not what they say, it is what they do; the devil is often hidden in the details. This is the kind of legislation of our forebears and all legislation before the invention of word processors - now requiring thousand page bills to rename a section of highway. This kind of legislation is dependent upon all three branches of government actually doing their jobs instead of relying upon pages and pages of detailed prescriptive rules generally drafted by staffers and never carefully read. Legislation in the fifties and sixties was like this and congressional oversight along with the power of the purse was the tool to enforce compliance along with judges capable of interpreting and ruling on the stated intent of the legislation without needing to rely upon a prescriptive check list. … … … So, making Agencies justify their requests based upon strategic imperatives, legislated intent and realistic accounting can be an effective tool provided that the Congress provides effective legislation that allows this reporting to inform the public In a consistent manner, allows further discussion of details when necessary, gets our Congress back to dealing with big issues that affect our county’s future in a consistent manner without having to resort to page after page of ‘administrivia’ detail, and gives more Congressional time to actually deliberate legislation or to provide focused oversight to assure that the legislated intent is being followed by agencies and if the legislation may need revision.
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AmyTSpain's Opinion
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09/15/2020
The People must be able to examine all budgets for all agencies. The only way to stop grift is to become much more transparent.
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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.

Just.Dave's Opinion
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09/15/2020
This bill is sponsored by a democrat. More house garbage to pile up on 'Merica Mitch's desk
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Tess's Opinion
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09/15/2020
This is just another obfuscation. The yahoos in Washington have far more pressing issues to be working on. They point their fingers at other entities to distract us from the clear fact that they are not doong their jobs. PA Rep Fred Keller is prancing around his district visiting "small businesses" while completely ignoring them and their employeees when back in Washington. When are we going to rid ourselves of these fools who work for adulation rather than work at all? Let's clean them out. It matters less who occupies the White House and more who we send to Congress. If the President is an imbecile, they do nothing. If the President is competent, they fight against him/her. Both parties. If we behaved the way they do, we would be fired. After decades of misappropriations and dereliction of duty-let's clean house.
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James's Opinion
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09/15/2020
No! Some of these budgets especially for our intelligence agencies are Top Secret. We do not broadcast to our enemies how much we are spending on covert operations abroad!
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What is House Bill H.R. 4894?

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. 4894

$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-DepthSponsoring Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced this bill 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.”

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 passed the House Oversight and Reform Committee by voice vote on March 3, 2020 with the support of 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 NoteCongressional 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: Unsplash / Sharon McCutcheon)

AKA

Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2020

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
  • The house Passed September 14th, 2020
    Roll Call Vote 402 Yea / 1 Nay
    IntroducedOctober 29th, 2019

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    Agree Congress should make all budget justifications available in the public domain. Should include sponsors, cost/benefit justifications, vote for/against and large campaign contributors of those voting for it. The US public should be able to review all the fingerprints on each budget justification.
    Like (63)
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    This bill is sponsored by a democrat. More house garbage to pile up on 'Merica Mitch's desk
    Like (8)
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    Getting clear, concise overview reporting of Agency budget requests will be difficult to attain without congressional enforcement of it’s own related legislation to be clear and concise, with clear objectives and strategic imperatives. Congressional legislation suffers greatly by the availability of word processors and our litigious society’s dependence on overly detailed legislation instead of concise and carefully worded legislation with a clear strategic imperative, high level requirements and a clear statement of the legislations intent. This form of legislation is easier to understand and harder to use for hidden ‘gotchas’ buried in a footnote of sub paragraph 3 on page 1283. Also, this form of legislation is harder to use as an advertisement for one thing by it’s title, while the actual legislated details do the exact opposite (beware of the details of any trumpublican legislation with a good sounding title- just like the trumpublican party, it is not what they say, it is what they do; the devil is often hidden in the details. This is the kind of legislation of our forebears and all legislation before the invention of word processors - now requiring thousand page bills to rename a section of highway. This kind of legislation is dependent upon all three branches of government actually doing their jobs instead of relying upon pages and pages of detailed prescriptive rules generally drafted by staffers and never carefully read. Legislation in the fifties and sixties was like this and congressional oversight along with the power of the purse was the tool to enforce compliance along with judges capable of interpreting and ruling on the stated intent of the legislation without needing to rely upon a prescriptive check list. … … … So, making Agencies justify their requests based upon strategic imperatives, legislated intent and realistic accounting can be an effective tool provided that the Congress provides effective legislation that allows this reporting to inform the public In a consistent manner, allows further discussion of details when necessary, gets our Congress back to dealing with big issues that affect our county’s future in a consistent manner without having to resort to page after page of ‘administrivia’ detail, and gives more Congressional time to actually deliberate legislation or to provide focused oversight to assure that the legislated intent is being followed by agencies and if the legislation may need revision.
    Like (36)
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    The People must be able to examine all budgets for all agencies. The only way to stop grift is to become much more transparent.
    Like (23)
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    I can justify Haagen Das ice cream every hour but not on taxpayers money. It’s time to see what the government thinks is acceptable and if that differs from the public.
    Like (17)
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    By all means yes. 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 pr, yes. SneakyPete
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    Yes, fiscal responsibility by all federal agencies is important. These are tax payer dollars funding these agencies and there needs to be much more transparency and accountability.
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    Yes. Encouraging & urging hasn’t worked. Make it a law. It’s taxpayers’ money.
    Like (12)
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    We as Taxpayers deserve to know how our tax dollars are being spent and why they are being spent the way they are. There are too many riders in all bills that provide pork to things that have nothing to do with the bill it is a rider on. It’s time we the people say enough is enough.
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    ABSOLUTELY!! Not only should the justifications be available, line by line as well as generally, but also the assumptions and data upon which those justifications are based. Automatic rollovers plus inflation has long been used to bloat budgets. Non-data driven political assumptions also bloat the budget. Budgets are a statement of values. If we are to trust our government to act in our best interest as a nation, and not just for a privileged few, providing the data needed that underlies and drives the justifications for recommended expenditures would be readily available in a standardized format.
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    Good government is transparent. Forcing all agencies to be transparent about how and why they are spending federal funds will be better for us all, so that we can be informed about how each agency is using our taxpayer dollars. I hope this applies to the Department of Defense, which is the least transparent and most wasteful of all agencies.
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    The more public our lawmakers make things the less distrust we will have.
    Like (8)
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    WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW WHERE OUR TAX DOLLARS GO,,,,,,,,,,,, REPUBLICAN SENATE HAS CONTROL,,,,,,, I WAS RAISED REPUBLICAN I KNOW THE PARTY WELL,,,,,,,,,,,, GOP / RICH PAY LITTLE TO NOTHING IN TAXES ,,,,,,,,, ASK,,,,,,, TRUMP,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, WE PAY TAXES FOR ,,,,, WELFARE,,,,,, NEEDS,,,,,,, ELDERLY ,,,,,, POOR ,,,,,,,,HEALTHCARE ,,,,,,,,,, ROADS BRIDGES,,,,,,, EVERYTHING THEY LIE AND CALL FREE STUFF IS PAID FOR,,,,,,,,,, THEN IT IS STOLE THEIR VACATIONS ABORTIONS FOR THEIR GIRLFRIENDS ,,,,,,,,,, THEIR WANTS,,,,,,, THIS IS NOT THEIR MONEY IT IS OURS,,,,,, TRUMPS GOLFING,,,,,,,, TRUMP STEALING OUR TAXES TO PAY HIMSELF TO BE AT HIS OWN RESORTS ,,,,,,,, HIS KIDS STEAL FROM US,,,,,,,, THEN YOU WANT US TO VOTE FOR YOU GOP,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,, THINK IT OVER,,,
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    We all have a right to know where every cent of our tax dollars are being spent, and it is my opinion that if Congress and the Office of Management and Budget are not showing me where all of my tax dollars are going and why, they are participating in extortion and support taxation without representation.
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    More transparency period. Our government is so used to getting away with everything, they forget they work for us.
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    Those that pay the bills must know where the money is spent.
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    Transparency is vital in government. We will not have it in any way if Donald Trump wins.
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    Yes, all info should be in laymen’s terms to be understood by the public. The public should be able to access and understand information. The government works for us!!
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    JimK, hope you are feeling much better. 👍🏻❤️😊👏🏻 Keep your informed, insightful comments coming, but NOT if you are at risk, health wise. Your passion, as well as many others, are inspiring and necessary in this crazy upside-down world we currently live in. Thank you profusely! ❤️ And I say yes to this proposal!
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    Well, it should be transparent and the public should know and be able to find out easily.
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