Among the biggest unanswered questions in the nations capital is how many federal government programs do taxpayers fund these days. This mystery has evaded Washingtons best minds for decades.
The sole obstacle to getting that answer is a handful of Senate Democrats, who, for reasons only they know, block the needed legislation—the Taxpayers Right to Know Act—every time it comes up for a vote in the upper chamber, according to one of their immensely frustrated Republican colleagues.
“There are some folks on the other side of the aisle that are concerned that if the American people and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) see every dollar that is spent, they have literally said to me its too much transparency,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) told The Epoch Times Monday.
“My response is always its not too much transparency, its actual transparency, because right now if I want to know all of the federal programs related to any item, I have to go to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and make a request,” Lankford explained.
Lankford also said opponents of his proposal claim it gives OMB too much power to root out waste and duplication. “Congress cannot see where there is duplication and overlap and neither can the American people, and thats absurd,” he told The Epoch Times.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) did not respond to an emailed request from The Epoch Times for comment.
The GAO is the investigative arm of Congress, but the agency must respond to thousands of requests from senators and representatives, so getting a current list of federal programs can take months.
Even then, the list is a static one, showing programs at a point in time. The Oklahoma Republicans proposal requires OMB to extend the inventory process it began in 2013 by creating a publicly accessible Internet site with continually updated data on spending and performance for all federal programs.
Besides enabling taxpayers to better see where their tax dollars are going, such a web site would make it much easier for Congress to identify duplication and waste. Hundreds of billions of dollars could be saved and programs made more efficient, Lankford contends.
Lankford is doubly frustrated because in an era of intense partisanship, his proposal has been passed by the House of Representatives twice, once under Republican control in 2014 and again in February with Democrats in charge. The House version of the bill was introduced last year by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.).
Lankford entered the Senate in 2015 after winning a special election to complete retiring Republican Sen. Tom Coburns term. Lankford served in the House from 2011 till 2015 and was elected with 68 percent of the vote in 2016 to a full Senate term.
The way was cleared for Lankfords proposal in 2006 with creation of USASpending.gov, the internet site that gives taxpayers instant access to most federal spending. Coburn and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) co-sponsored the bill establishing the spending site.
The 1993 Government Performance and Results Act was upgraded in 2010 to require OMB to begin the needed program inventory but progress has been slow, in part due to bureaucratic claims about the difficulties of defining what constitutes a “program.” Even so, the first tentative inventory was released by OMB in 2013, but there were multiple problems.
“The 2013 inventory publication was based on agency-by-agency compilations, not a comprehensive overview on a consistent basis across different agencies. As a result, it did not effectively allow identification of duplication and inefficiency,” Truth-in-Accounting (TIA) Research Director Bill Bergman wrote in an Aug. 5 report by the Chicago-based non-profit.
But, Bergman noted, progress was made on a problem that had bedeviled officials for decades. He pointed to 1982 congressional testimony by a senior GAO official telling Congress that the agency had compiled a static inventory of more than 6,000 federal programs. Since then, the inventory has become more ambitious.
To fix the 2013 problems, GAO made multiple recommendations in subsequent years, including that OMB revise its guidance to agencies to ensure they collaborate in Read More From Source