Congress to take on billions in duplicative programs

Thursday - 4/19/2012, 5:32pm EDT

A bipartisan team of lawmakers in the House and Senate has introduced a bill to take on duplicative programs in the federal government. Although similar legislation has been voted down before, the new bill uses a recent Government Accountability Office report as ammunition.

The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Reps. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.), James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.).

The GAO report released in February said the government could save more than $100 billion by eliminating duplicative programs.

"I take very seriously Congress's role in overseeing and reforming laws to ensure that the federal government is more accountable and efficient," Udall said in a press release. "This amendment will allow us to go a step further in making certain that new federal programs don't duplicate old ones. In the long run, we will save taxpayer dollars, cut government waste and redundancies, and change the culture in Washington."

The Congressional Research Service would analyze all new legislation to determine any overlap in existing federal programs, offices or initiatives with similar goals or activities. If a similarity is found, the bill would be given a "duplication score" and require an explanation from the committee for why the new federal entity is necessary.

Legislation that addresses an emergency situation would be exempt.

In a joint statement, the lawmakers cited several instances from the GAO report of duplicative spending they'd like to eliminate, including:

  • 209 programs covering science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education, administered by 13 federal agencies at a cost of $3 billion annually

  • 160 programs and tax expenditures run by 20 federal entities related to housing assistance

  • 14 programs and three tax expenditures to reduce diesel emissions
"We can't just keep throwing money at a problem and hope we can purchase a solution," Lankford said. "Creating a surplus of duplicate federal initiatives only adds to the maze of federal bureaucracy and detracts from overall goals."

The Senate has twice voted down similar legislation, once in 2011, and again in 2012, several weeks before the release of the GAO report.