Let the Sun Shine In!

Mary Katharine Ham
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Posted: Jul 13, 2006 12:28 AM
Sen. Coburn was on the floor yesterday morning talking about his sunshine amendment.

It passed by unanimous consent, and that's good news.

Here's what the amendment requires, via Mark Tapscott:

  • Require all earmarks and directives to be included in the final
    bill language to be considered as being passed by both chambers of
    Congress.
  • Require public disclosure of all reports provided to Congress and the department budget briefings on the DHS web site.
  • Cuts $25 million from DHS's Demonstration Training Grants program.
  • Prohibits funding for the continuation of the outdated LORAN navigational system.
  • Directs
    $1 million in additional funding to the Office of the Chief Financial
    Officer for the purpose of complying with the Improper Payments
    Information Act of 2002.
Mark explains the amendment and the activities it attempts to thwart in great detail if you follow the link.

But the gist is this. Congressional appropriators ask the Executive Branch to spend money on various programs, which benefit various Members' home districts. They then ask departments (DHS, in this instance) to compile reports analyzing said spending programs and their efficacy.

But they don't take kindly to releasing the analyses of these programs. Heck, they don't even take kindly to releasing the analyses to Members of Congress beyond the Appropriations Committee, which makes Coburn think:

"The only conclusion one can
draw from how difficult it is to obtain the justifications of the
Department's budget justifications is that the budget requests are
NOT justifiable, or that there is something being kept hidden from the
public, the media and Members of Congress. The same is true of the
other reports that DHS and other Departments are directed to provide to
the Appropriations Committees in the annual spending bills."

Well, then let the sun shine in, the su-un shine i-i-inn, whoa, whoa. Mark's your go-to guy for explaining the machinations behind these kinds of things. As for me, the more of this behavior is made obvious to the public, the more spending Congress has to justify, the better off we all are.