The Government is Now Closed…in More Ways Than One

The ludicrous and wasteful government shutdown can now claim another victim: government transparency. Several functions dedicated to providing information to the American public have been declared “non-essential” and are suspended during the lapse in appropriations. You might say that open government is now closed for business.

Here are some of the ways in which the shutdown is making it harder to know what government is doing (or at least, was doing before the shutdown):

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Freedom of Information Act Ombudsman Not Yet at Full Force, Report Finds

A recent report by the Government Accountability Office found that the Office of Government Information Services (OGIS) doesn't have a plan for conducting comprehensive reviews of federal agencies Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies or their compliance with the law.

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House Attack on Major Health Standards Likely Linked to Debt Ceiling Negotiations

With a contentious political fight brewing in Congress over the debt ceiling, Republican members of the House have indicated they are considering several “riders,” or supplemental legislative language, that would significantly limit the government’s ability to set standards that are essential for protecting public health and welfare.

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Leading Senator Calls for End of Fiscal Brinksmanship

On Sept. 17, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chair of the Senate Budget Committee, spoke on the floor of the Senate and said congressional Republicans need to come to the negotiating table and end the looming fiscal standoffs that are less than two weeks away.

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Watchdog’s Recommendation Boosts DATA Act

Congress's watchdog office recommended that Congress pass legislation to advance federal spending transparency efforts across the government in a report released late last week. This is a major boon to advocates of the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA Act) of 2013 – legislation being considered by the House and the Senate.

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More Transparency Could Help Fight Fraud and Strengthen Medicare

On Sept. 5, the Center for Effective Government, along with 13 other organizations, filed comments calling for the disclosure of Medicare payments to medical providers. Releasing the amounts of Medicare funds paid to providers could help fight fraud and strengthen Medicare.

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Whistleblower Reveals U.S. Spy Agencies' Secret Budget

Details on the secret U.S. spy budget spilled into the public realm yesterday after The Washington Post published selective pages from the 16-agency intelligence community’s fiscal year 2012 congressional budget justification, leaked by former Booz Allen Hamilton employee Edward Snowden.

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Could Secrecy Caps Reduce Over-Classification?

Government officials from both parties have decried the excessive secrecy rampant in the executive branch for decades. For instance, in 2005 then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal where he stated “I have long believed that too much material is classified across the federal government as a general rule.”

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Public Protections Take Center Stage at Committee Hearing on Toxic Substances Bill

Did you know that nearly 80,000 chemicals are currently used in the United States, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has only performed a safety assessment of 200 and has only issued partial restrictions for five of these substances? This illustrates how the nation's primary environmental law on toxic substances, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 (TSCA), has failed to protect Americans from exposure to dangerous chemicals. On July 31, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works hosted a hearing to discuss the law's failures and hear from witnesses about the strengths and weaknesses of proposed legislation introduced by the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) this past May.

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Improving the FOIA Rules at HUD

Agency rules for implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) should streamline processes, improve service, and further transparency. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has recently proposed new FOIA regulations to update their rules.

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