Issa blocks transparency bill

Tuesday - 5/31/2011, 6:20pm EDT

By Ruben Gomez
Federal News Radio

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will not consider a bill aimed at better federal government transparency, according to Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-Calif.)

The Transparency and Openness in Government Act, H.R. 1144, combines a number of provisions considered during the last session of Congress, according to bill sponsor and committee ranking member Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.).

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill says bringing the bill up for committee consideration would be a pointless exercise because its provisions failed in the Senate during the last session of Congress

The bill, according to Cummings in a letter to Issa, would combine five pieces of legislation.

  • The Presidential Records Act Amendments: would establish a statutory process for handling executive privilege claims prior to releases under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • The Electronic Message Preservation Act: would amend the Federal Records Act and Presidential Records Act to ensure White House and agency email records are preserved electronically.
  • The Government Accountability Office Improvement Act: would strengthen authority for GAO to access agency records.
  • The Presidential Library Donation Reform Act: would require quarterly reporting to Congress and the National Archives of donations of $200 or more to presidential libraries.
  • The Federal Advisory Committee Act Amendments: would require agencies to disclose more information about advisory committees.

Cummings said each provision passed in the House during the last session with bipartisan support and has asked Issa to reconsider a committee vote. But Issa, in a preceding letter to Cummings, said the new transparency bill lacks provisions important to enhancing government transparency.

"As I have indicated in the past, I believe that any attempt to comprehensively improve transparency at the federal level should entail global solutions," Issa wrote. Those solutions should include " the institution of government-wide data standards that make important information (such as federal spending data) available to the public in an open and accessible format."

Without providing specifics, Hill told Federal News Radio the committee is working on new transparency legislation that would address the data standards. He said he expects the bill to be available "sooner rather than later."