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Friday, September 08, 2006

House and Senate Reach Agreement on Spending Database

Things are moving rapidly on the Hill now in the wake of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's adroit maneuvering yesterday in securing a unanimous Senate vote for S. 2590, the Federal Financial Accountability and Transparency Act to establish a Google-like Internet database of most federal spending.

Senate and House conferees agreed today on a common version that will include grants and contracts, as provided in the Senate version of the original bill. Originally, the House version approved earlier this year did not include contracts.

A joint statement announcing the agreement was issued this afternoon by House Majority Whip, Rep. Roy Blount, R-MO, House Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Tom Davis, R-VA, and senators Tom Coburn, R-OK, Barack Obama, D-IL and Tom Carper, D-DE.

The statement said in part:

"'This process has focused on enhancing the accountability and transparency in the federal budget process,' Blunt, Boehner, and Davis said. 'The federal government awards approximately $300 billion in grants to roughly 30,000 different organizations. Each year, roughly one million contracts exceed the $25,000 reporting threshold. We need to be sure that money is spent wisely.

"'Our legislation creates a transparent system for reviewing these expenditures so that Congress, the press, and the American public have the information they need to conduct proper oversight of the use of our tax dollars. The package we've agreed to move requires the Administration to establish searchable databases for both grants and contracts.'

"'I'm pleased that the House leadership agreed with us that all federal spending should be accessible through this website. It doesn't matter if it's a grant, an earmark, or a contract, this legislation will allow the public to know how their tax dollars are being spent," said Sen. Obama.

Both chambers could vote on the revised bill next week, which would then send it to President Bush for signature.