With FAA Reauthorization, Congress Fiddles While Everyone Else Burns

Add this to the list of the nation’s current budgetary woes: according to Bloomberg news, the Treasury is losing about $30 million a day, or close to $200 million a week, because Congress has allowed the Federal Aviation Administration’s congressional authorization to lapse and, as a result, Treasury isn’t collecting taxes on airplane tickets. The House of Representatives is trying to ram through a provision that will make it harder for aviation workers to unionize, and the debate is holding up the latest in a long, long line of short-term extensions of the FAA’s authorization. Although it has been extended twenty times since it expired in 2007, Congress failed to re-authorize the FAA by July 22, meaning Treasury no longer has the authority to collect airline taxes. To add insult to injury, airlines have used this as an opportunity to raise their prices and reap more profit from consumers.

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Cut, Cap, and Balance and the Future of the Balanced Budget Amendment

Conservative members of Congress are not being very helpful in the debt ceiling debate. The Republican-led House of Representatives earlier this week voted through their "solution" to the problem in the form of the so-called “Cut, Cap, and Balance” bill. But the House likely only voted on the bill because they couldn’t get enough votes for the bill conservatives actually wanted: a balanced budget amendment filled with conservative policy goals. But with the Senate unlikely to pass the Cut, Cap, and Balance bill, Congress might turn to the next worse alternative: a plain balanced budget amendment.

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Hundreds of Organizations Oppose Balanced Budget Amendment

OMB Watch has long been a vocal opponent of a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. Now, we have a lot of company. In a letter released today, a full 247 national organizations, including OMB Watch, announced their opposition to a balanced budget amendment, believing it is bad for America.

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DATA Act Scheduled for Markup in House

Tomorrow morning the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will markup the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act). The DATA Act seeks to expand upon the Recovery Act by turning the temporary Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board into a permanent “Federal Accountability and Spending Transparency Board” (FAST Board), which will have authority over all federal spending transparency and will administer USAspending.gov. The bill also expands upon the Recovery Act’s recipient reporting model, bringing it to the entire federal government.

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House Subcommittee Restores Small Portion of E-Gov Funding, but More Resources Still Needed

The House Financial Services and General Government appropriations subcommittee today approved its fiscal year 2012 spending bill. The legislation would slightly restore funding for critical government transparency projects, but the full ramifications of the subcommittee's actions are unclear.

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Open Government Groups Urge Congress to Restore Funding for Transparency Efforts

OMB Watch today released a letter, signed by more than 30 transparency and good government groups, calling for restoration of the funding for the Electronic Government Fund (E-Gov Fund). This fund supports important government websites such as USAspending.gov, the IT Dashboard, Data.gov, and Performance.gov.

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New GAO Report Shows the Benefits of Spending Transparency

According to the report, $24 billion in Recovery Act contract and grant spending went to about 3,700 recipients who owed some $750 million in taxes to the US government. Clearly, this isn’t good. Government contracts shouldn’t be benefiting organizations that don’t play by the rules. But the important point is that we only know this because of the recipient reporting feature built into the Recovery Act.

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Data Viz Challenge Brings Style to Federal Budget

The Budget Brigade here at OMB Watch clearly loves the budget. We also love pretty visualizations. Sadly, there’s a distinct lack of pretty budget visualizations out there. Lucky for us, into this void has stepped the Data Viz Challenge, which this week announced its winner.

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The Balanced Budget Amendment That Isn’t About Balancing the Budget

In a move hearkening back to the Clinton era, Senate Republicans introduced a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution earlier today. All 47 members of the caucus are cosponsoring the bill, a strong show of force. But here’s the thing: this balanced budget amendment isn’t about balancing the budget.

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Our Six-Point Plan for Spending Transparency

As I wrote about yesterday in this post, last Friday the House Oversight Committee held a great hearing focusing on spending transparency. We submitted written testimony for the hearing, which you can read here. In it, we talk about the six changes Congress and the Obama administration should make to USAspending.gov, the government's spending website which is based off of one of our websites, FedSpending.org.

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