Congress Inches Toward Enacting DATA Act

November 20, 2013

Some hope for more open government at the federal level emerged November 18, 2013, when the House passed a bill (HR 2061) aimed at improving public data about federal spending.

The hope was bolstered by the fact that the bill passed the House by a bipartisan 388-1 recorded vote. It is known as the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act. Its chief sponsor is Rep. Darrell E. Issa (R-CA), who chairs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

A similar bill (S 994) was approved November 6, 2013, by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. That bill was sponsored by Sen. Mark R Warner (D-VA). It awaits Senate floor action.

Online searchable databases to track federal spending already exist, but they are far from perfect. The House-passed bill would shift responsibility for the official  federal website from the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to the Treasury Department. OMB is responsible for preparing the President's budget and tracking agency funds, but is a highly secretive agency and has not done well running the current federal spending site.

The House and Senate bills would both push agencies to do a better job of reporting their spending.