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Restoring Accountability

The House passed five bills which spend taxpayer dollars wisely, change the way Congress and the federal government does business and shine a light on how government operates.  The bills end waste in federal contracting, strengthen protections for federal “whistleblowers” who report waste, fraud, and abuse, increase disclosure requirements for Presidential records, require disclosure of big donors to Presidential libraries, and provide long overdue and constitutionally-mandated oversight of the veterans' health care crisis and other federal issues. Taken in context with what the 110th Congress has already put in place, these bills are strong step forward to restoring accountability and trust in Washington. 

S. 2488 - The OPEN Government Act
This bill strengthens the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to provide for more timely disclosure of government documents, including helping FOIA requesters obtain timely responses, improving transparency in agency compliance with FOIA, providing an alternative to litigation, and providing accountability for FOIA decisions. The House passed the final version on December 18, 2007. The President signed it into law on December 31.
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H.R. 1255 - Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007
Under the Presidential Records Act, presidential records are supposed to be released to historians and the public 12 years after the end of a presidential administration. In November 2001, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13233 which overturned an executive order issued by President Reagan and gave current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records or delay their release indefinitely. The Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007 nullifys the Bush executive order and establishes procedures to ensure the timely release of presidential records.
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H.R. 1254 - Presidential Library Donation Reform Act of 2007 
This bill requires the disclosure of donors to Presidential libraries. Presidential libraries are built using private funds raised by an organization or foundation working on behalf of the president. Under current law, donations for the presidential library can be unlimited in size and are not required to be disclosed. The bill would require that all organizations established for the purpose of raising funds for presidential libraries or their related facilities report on a quarterly basis all contributions of $200 or more.
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H.R. 985 - Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2007 
This bill strengthens protections for federal whistleblowers to prevent retaliation against those who report wrongdoing, waste, fraud, or abuse to authorities.
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H.R. 1362 - The Accountability in Contracting Act
This bill changes federal acquisition law to require agencies to limit the use of abuse-prone contracts, to increase transparency and accountability in federal contracting, and to protect the integrity of the acquisition workforce.  Specifically, the bill:

  • Limits the duration of no-bid contracts awarded in emergencies to eight months.  The Bush Administration has allowed such contracts awarded in emergencies to extend for years.
  • Requires large federal agencies to develop and implement a plan to minimize the use of noncompetitive contracts. Spending on no-bid contracts has more than doubled under the Bush Administration.
  • Requires large federal agencies to develop and implement a plan to minimize the use of cost-plus contracts. Cost-plus type contracts give contractors little or no incentive to control costs.  This type of contract has grown by 75% during the Bush Administration. 
  • Requires an agency to prepare a public letter explaining why it awarded a no-bid contract. 
  • Requires that contract overcharges more than $1 million be disclosed to Congress.  The Bush Administration has hidden contractor overcharges from Congress, international auditors, and the public, impeding oversight and diminishing accountability.
  • Mandates that agencies devote at least an additional 1% of their procurement budgets to contract oversight, planning and administration. 
  • Closes the revolving door, requiring that former federal procurement officers wait one year before seeking employment at a lobbying or contracting firm.  It would require that federal procurement officers wait one year before becoming involved in a contract given to a former employer.  It also would allow the agency's ethics officer to issue a waiver for an employee to become involved in a procurement or contract with a former employer.

Learn more from the Oversight committee >>
Click here to read the bill >>