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Thursday, July 27, 2006

Support Grows for Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act as it Goes to Senate Committee Mark-up; Davis Open to Contracts

Members of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee are meeting today to mark-up S. 2590, the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Coburn, R-OK, and Sen. Barack Obama, D-IL requiring the establishment of a public, searchable database of federal spending.

Among the growing list of co-sponsors of the bill are senators John McCain, R-AZ, Tom Carper, D-DE, Hillary Clinton, D-NY, Rick Santorum, R-PA, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-TN. Committee Chairman Susan Collins, R-ME, also supports the measure and promised backers last week of a quick mark-up session today, followed by a quick reporting to the Senate floor. The goal is to get the Senate version approved on the Unanimous Consent calendar.

The Senate mark-up comes the same dxay as National Review magazine endorsed the proposal and thus joined a solid list of major daily newspapers supporting it. NR's editors lauded the proposal because:

"For the first time, it would shed some light on which companies and organizations are receiving federal money, and how much they are getting. A tool like this is a dream come true for budget hawks. Louis Brandeis famously observed that “sunlight is the best disinfectant” — and nothing needs disinfecting like the festering federal budget.

NRO's editors added that:

"Many taxpayers would be surprised and disturbed to learn how much of their money drifts quietly away to various questionable causes - Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, Alaskan bridges to nowhere, and the like. Making this information readily available to the public — and especially to the diligent denizens of the blogosphere - would encourage reform."
You can read the complete NR editorial here.

It also appears today that a major obstacle to full congressional approval is fading in importance. A House version of Coburn-Obama backed mainly by House Majority Whip Rep. Roy Blunt, R-MO., and House Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA., includes federal grants but not federal contracts.

After initially sounding dead-set against including contracts - Davis believes they are mostly competitively bid and therefore less needful of public examination - the Virginia congressman, who represents a district populated mainly by federal civil servants and federal contractors, is now talking compromise with the Senate, according to Congressional Quarterly.

"Davis said he has softened his opposition to including contracts and does not expect that conference negotiations, should it come to that, would be difficult. 'It’s technically harder to do, but I’m not opposed to it,' Davis said.

has taken the brunt of the criticism for excluding federal contracts because his Virginia district receives so many. The 11th District ranked 17th among House districts in federal contracts received in fiscal 2004 and 2005, according to [Gary Bass of OMB Watch]. Blunt’s district ranks relatively low in both contracts and grants."

A Senate-House conference committee is unlikely to meet on the measure until after Congress returns from its August recess. If approved by President Bush with the schedule established by the Senate version, the U.S. Office of Management and Budget would be required to begin work on the database and tracking spending as of Jan. 1, 2008.