Oversight Committee Approves Bipartisan Government Accountability Legislation

July 24, 2014

Today, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed several government accountability provisions, including legislation aimed at improving management of the Senior Executive Service; improving federal officials’ compliance with the Federal Records Act; establishing a regulatory review commission to identify outdated, costly, or overly burdensome federal regulations; and removing restrictions on the Government Accountability Office’s audit access to the Federal Reserve’s role in banking regulation while directing the GAO to conduct an audit of the Federal Reserve. A joint staff report on pseudoclassification of Executive Branch documents was also adopted as a Committee Report. Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) released the following statement:

“Scandal after scandal, failure after failure, the American people are tired of seeing federal officials escape accountability,” Chairman Issa said. “The commonsense government accountability legislation approved by the Committee today responds to government abuses. Federal Records Act Accountability will improve federal agencies’ compliance with recordkeeping laws, and the Senior Executive Service Accountability Act will increase accountability for senior officials when misconduct occurs.”

·         H.R. 5169, The Senior Executive Service Accountability Act. Approved and reported favorably to the House by a voice vote. Introduced by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI). This legislation will streamline the process for removing members of the Senior Executive Service (SES) for misconduct, eliminate the provision in current law which allows an SES employee removed for performance and placed in a new federal job from retaining their SES salary, make SES employees subject to suspension of less than 14 days (under the same conditions as the employees they supervise), and double the length of the probationary period for new SES (from 1 year to 2 years).

·         H.R. 5170, Federal Records Act Accountability. Approved, as amended, and reported favorably to the House by a voice vote. Introduced by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the Federal Records Act Accountability bill makes a senior official at each federal agency responsible for Records Act compliance, to include reporting missing or destroyed records to the Archivist and to the public. If federal employees use a personal email account to conduct official business, the entire communication must also be sent to an official business account, to maintain the record. Agencies are required to fire employees who intentionally and maliciously destroy federal records. The Committee adopted several amendments to the bill: by Ranking Member Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD), requiring electronic archiving of records; by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), requiring autocapture of emails of senior executives; and by Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to Rep. Speier’s amendment, ensuring chat and instant mail communications are also captured.

·         H.R. 4874, the Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome (SCRUB) Act of 2014. Approved, as amended, and reported favorably to the House by a vote of 22-15. H.R. 4874 was introduced by Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) and referred to the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and additionally to the Committee on the Judiciary and to the Committee on Appropriations. The bill establishes a Presidentially-appointed Retrospective Regulatory Review Commission, which will identify regulations that are outdated and overly burdensome or costly that should be amended or repealed, with a goal of reducing the regulatory burden by 15 percent. The Commission will designate regulations for immediate repeal or designate regulations to be repealed through a cut-go process, in which agencies must repeal a regulation prior to promulgating a new regulation of similar costs. Agencies would be required to implement the recommendations only if they are approved by a joint resolution of Congress.

·         H.R. 24, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2014. Approved, as amended, and reported favorably to the House by a voice vote. H.R. 24, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act of 2014, introduced by Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), removes restrictions on the Government Accountability Office’s audit access to the Federal Reserve’s role in banking regulation and directs the GAO to conduct an audit of the Federal Reserve within 12 months of enactment.

·         The bipartisan Committee report titled,Pseudo-Classification of Executive Branch Documents: Problems with the Transportation Security Administration’s Use of the Sensitive Security Information Designation,was approved by voice vote. The report found problems with Transportation Security Administration’s application of the Sensitive Security Information designation dating back to 2004, including inconsistent application of the designation. The report also found that TSA improperly designated certain information as SSI in order to avoid its public release and repeatedly released information to the public against the advice of its SSI Office without having produced suitable documentation to explain the decision. The structure and position of the SSI Office within TSA has contributed to the difficulties the office has encountered in carrying out its mission. TSA made significant improvements to its SSI designation process following the Committee’s investigation.

You can see a complete list of the bills passed in today’s markup here.

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