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On Restoring Accountability

Posted on by Karina

“The five bills we’ll be considering over the next two days will reassert the principle that democracy thrives on openness and accountability.”
- Chairman Henry Waxman, 3/13/07

Today and tomorrow, the House will vote on five bills which change the way Congress and the federal government do business and shines a bright light on how the government operates. These 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 public trust in Washington.

Watch Speaker Pelosi, Leader Steny Hoyer, Whip Jim Clyburn, Caucus Chair Rahm Emanuel, and Chairman Henry Waxman on restoring accountability:

Chairman Henry Waxman:
“For the past six years we’ve had an Administration that has tried to operate with secrecy and without transparency and without the public having knowledge about their actions and to be able to therefore hold them accountable.”

The bills under consideration today and tomorrow are:

H.R. 1309 – The Freedom of Information Act Amendments of 2007
This bill amends the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in a dozen substantive provisions to provide for more timely disclosure of government documents, including restoring the presumption of disclosure to FOIA, helping FOIA requesters obtain timely responses, improving transparency in agency compliance with FOIA, providing an alternative to litigation, and providing accountability for FOIA decisions.
Learn more from the Oversight committee >>
Click here to read the bill >>

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 nullifies the Bush executive order and establishes procedures to ensure the timely release of presidential records.
Learn more from the Oversight committee >>
Click here to read the bill >>

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

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

H.R. 1362 – The Accountability in Contracting Act
Under the Bush Administration, spending on no-bid contracts has more than doubled and the Administration has hidden contractor overcharges from Congress, international auditors, and the public, impeding oversight and diminishing accountability. 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. The bill limits the duration of no-bid contracts awarded in emergencies to eight months, requires large federal agencies to develop and implement a plan to minimize the use of noncompetitive contracts, 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, mandates that agencies devote at least an additional 1% of their procurement budgets to contract oversight, planning and administration, and closes the revolving door, requiring that former federal procurement officers wait one year before seeking employment at a lobbying or contracting firm.
Learn more from the Oversight committee >>
Click here to read the bill >>

UPDATE: Read the New York Times editorial on The Presidential Records Act – Sunshine on History.

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