April 25, 2018

Democratic Leadership Blocks Good-Government Bill


  • The Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act would direct the federal government to create an inventory of federal programs.
  • This bipartisan legislation would require the federal government to implement a top recommendation by the Government Accountability Office for improving oversight.
  • Despite companion legislation passing the House by voice vote, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is blocking the legislation from expedited consideration in the Senate.

In February 2017, Senator James Lankford joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce S. 317, the Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act. The legislation would direct the Office of Management and Budget to publish an inventory of federal programs costing more than $1 million. Its purpose is to improve oversight of federal programs by ensuring key information is collected and posted in a single place.

The bill has received wide bipartisan support in both chambers. It was reported favorably out of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by voice vote in May 2017. In early January 2017, the House passed substantially similar legislation with the same name by voice vote.

Dem Blockade

S. 317 would provide Congress, OMB, and the Government Accountability Office a key tool for discovering waste and duplication. At a hearing last April, Comptroller General Gene Dodaro “urge[d] Congress to complete passage” of S. 317. He predicted that “it would make a huge difference in identifying overlap, duplication, and fragmentation” in the federal government and would “provide a better accountability tool to Congress and the [a]gencies.” He called it a “much more efficient way to address” issues in oversight of government programs.

Despite the broad bipartisan support for the legislation in both chambers, Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer today objected to the legislation proceeding expeditiously through the Senate.

Common Sense Legislation

Right now, there is no single place where the American people can easily or reliably find a list of federal programs paid for with taxpayer money. This bill would bring needed transparency to federal spending, and with it additional accountability.

The Taxpayers Right-To-Know Act was first introduced in 2011 by Senator Tom Coburn in the Senate and then-Representative Lankford in the House. It would update and improve current laws that require agencies to report their programs to OMB. It also responds to shortcomings in current reporting regimes identified by the GAO.

S. 317 would direct OMB to publish certain information on programs costing between $1 million and $10 million a year and additional information on programs above that threshold. For programs in the $1 million to $10 million range, OMB in its inventory would be required to identify the statutory authority the program is operating under, provide information about any grants or financial assistance given to individuals or entities under the program, and give links to evaluations of the program’s effectiveness. OMB would be required to provide additional information, including details on the employees involved in the program, for programs with larger budgets.

Issue Tag: Senate