Lawmakers take on legislative process in fight against duplicative programs

Monday - 4/29/2013, 6:31pm EDT

Two senators from the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee want to change Senate rules in an attempt to make sure federal programs or initiatives in proposed legislation don't overlap with existing efforts.

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the ranking member of the committee, and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) introduced a bill Friday that would require the Congressional Research Service to analyze legislation and determine whether it would create new programs that duplicate existing ones.

"If individual members of the Senate fail to do the research to determine if their proposals are duplicative, this bill will ensure they receive that information," Coburn said in a release.

Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office reported 17 areas of government overlap and duplication representing $95 billion in potential savings.

GAO has produced its annual report on duplicative federal programs for the past two years. But agencies have been slow to implement the recommendations. Of the 300 action items identified, agencies have fully addressed just 65 of them, according to GAO.

The annual duplication reports have also, so far, failed to galvanize Congress into action.

Coburn and Udall previously introduced a similar version of their bill in 2011 and 2012. But despite strong bipartisan backing, the measure failed to advance both times.

"All too often, Congress focuses on creating new programs and regulations instead of updating existing programs or abolishing those that have outlived their purpose," Udall said in a statement. "This bipartisan, common-sense bill will help eliminate duplicative programs and ensure that lawmakers formally analyze possible duplication when they draft a bill or resolution."

House members also seek rule changes

Coburn and Udall aren't the only lawmakers seeking to change legislative rules to cut back on overlapping programs.

Earlier this month, Reps. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced the Congressional Oversight to Start Taxpayer Savings — or COST Savings — resolution that would amend House rules to require committees of jurisdiction to hold oversight hearings on GAO's duplication report.

"Instead of letting that report gather dust, we are proposing that Congress hold hearings and vote on the suggestions in the GAO report," Gardner said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Peters introduced a separate measure designed to accelerate the process by which Congress reviews cost-savings recommendations included in the president's proposed budget.

The White House's budget request for fiscal 2014 included 215 proposals to cut or consolidate federal programs that could save the government more than $25 billion next year, alone, Office of Management and Budget Controller Danny Werfel estimated.

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