Entry for July 26, 2006

This illustration by Steve Brodner accompanied  Rolling Stone Magazine‘s April 21, 2005 online posting of Osha Gray Davidson’s article, “Bush’s Most Radical Plan Yet.,”

Davidson’s article reported that Kevin Brady (R-TX) had been trying for nine years to introduce legislation establishing “sunset commissions” and reported that the the administration’s budget bill had included such a commission

spelled out in three short sentences, [which] would give the president the power to appoint an eight-member panel…which would systematically review federal programs every ten years and decide whether they should be eliminated. Any programs that are not “producing results,” in the eyes of the commission, would “automatically terminate unless the Congress took action to continue them.”

While the administration portrayed the commission as a benign effort to make sure that federal agencies are running properly, Davidson concluded 

the commission would enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know it. With a simple vote of five commissioners — many of them likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations currently subject to federal oversight — the president could terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more Securities and Exchange Commission.

Henry Waxman told Davidson,

 The end result would be a field day for corporate lobbyists.

Now, Todd Tiahrt (R-KS)’s  H.R. 5766, the “Government Efficiency Act of 2006” is on a fast track.  Introduced on July 12, 2006 with 19 co-sponsors, the number now grown to 81. 

The House Committee on Government Reform, chaired by Tom Davis (R-VA),  received the bill that date, held a hearing July 19, then marked up the bill accepting Davis’s manager’s amendment  and ordered the bill reported the next day, by a vote of 15 to 12. The bill would require scheduled reviews of all federal agencies and programs and establish review commissions for that purpose. 

At the hearing, the committee also marked up and ordered reported  H.R. 3282 Kevin Brady’s  “The Abolishment of Obsolete Agencies and Federal Sunset Act of 2005” with 110 co-sponsors,  by a vote of 16-15.  Brady had first submitted his bill on July 14, 2005.  This bill goes a step further than Tiahrt’s provides for

the abolishment of agencies for which a public need does not exist.

Brady has submitted a third bill, H.R. 3277 , “Federal Agency Performance Review and Sunset Act” July 14, 2005.  The House Committee on Government Reform Subcommitee on Federal Workforce and Agency Organization held a  September 27, 2005 hearing on this bill and on H.R. 3276,  “Government Reorganization and Improvement of Performance Act” introduced July 14, 2005 by the Subcommittee’s Chairman, Jon Porter, (R-NV).  No action was taken after that time. 

Previous bills introduced by Brady to establish a sunset commission  include H.R. 2939, “Federal Sunset Act of 1998 ;” H.R. 2128,  “Abolishment of Obsolete Agencies and Federal Sunset Act of 1999;”  H.R.  2373  “Abolishment of Obsolete Agencies and Federal Sunset Act of 2001;” and H.R. H.R. 1227, “Abolishment of Obsolete Agencies and Federal Sunset Act of 2003.”  

On July 20, Brian M. Riedl and Michelle Muccio of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, posted their WebMemo #1170, “How to Improve the Government Waste Commission Proposals” supporting the measures.

Tiahrt’s bill, reported July 24, was discharged by the David Dreier (R-CA)’s House Rules Committee and Jim Nussle (R-IA)’s House Budget Committee, both of which had also received the bill July 12.  The bill has been placed on the Union Calendar and OMB Watch says the measure will be considered tomorrow.   That date,  Phil Gingrey (R-GA)  announced on the floor that the Committee on Rules might meet later in the week to grant a rule limiting the amendment process. 

Any Member wishing to offer an amendment should submit 55 copies of the amendment and one copy of a brief explanation of the amendment to the Rules Committee in room H–312 of the Capitol by 11 a.m. on Wednesday, July 26, 2006.

OMB Watch’s analysis posted July 25, headlined, “Committee Mark-Up Makes a Bad Bill Worse” noted that Davis’s amendment 

 expanding the scope of the commission’s reviews to include rules and regulations…also requires the commission to review the constitutional basis of all programs and agencies. This amendment vastly increases the scope of the commission’s power and puts individual regulations, not just programs, on the chopping block.  

In the same analysis OMB Watch reported that 

The Brady bill…was voted out of committee on largely party line votes with Rep. Todd Platts (R-PA) crossing the aisle to oppose the legislation…H.R. 5766 is scheduled for a vote on the floor this Thursday, July 27. While the Brady bill is not currently scheduled for a floor vote, there are rumors that the Brady bill could be combined with the Tiahrt bill before reaching the floor. 

OMB Watch summarized its presss conference of today in this news release.

The Committee met at 3:00 today.  A summary of amendments can be found at the Rule Committee’s website.  Tom Davis submitted another amendment that clarifies

 that the Federal Advisory Committee Act applies to any Federal Review Commissions …meaning that their meetings would have to be open to the public  [and]…that the Freedom of Information Act applies to information held by the commissions.  

His amendment would also require 

the commissions to develop rules and procedures to govern the conflicts of interest of the commissioners [and r]emoves a section of the legislation that would have required the President to submit a schedule under which all agencies in the entire federal government would be reviewed.  

Cliff  Stearns (R-FL) would extent the authority of commissions to include the review of the legislative branch.  Brian Baird (D-WA) would ‘s amendment requires that the final text of a joint resolution as described in the bill be made available on the internet for at least 72 hours (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when the House is not in session) before it is able to be considered on the floor in such a manner that 

it is conveniently and anonymously accessible using existing technology at no cost and in a format that is searchable by text.

 Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), who has announced his retirement, submitted amendments:

  • to allow members to amend any joint resolution relating to a legislative proposal prepared by the Federal Review Commission on the House floor;
  • to require all appointments to a Federal Review Commission to be made by Congress;
  • to add  four voting Congressional Members to a Federal Review Commission;
  • to increase the time for committees to consider any joint resolution relating to a legislative proposal prepared by the Federal Review Commission from 30 legislative days to 45 legislative days;
  • to require the Federal Review Commission to hold at least two public hearings; and
  • to prohibit the President from establishing a Federal Review Commission without Congressional Action

Anthony Weiner (NY) submitted an amendment in the nature of a substitute to establish a  9/11-style commission with subpoena power to

examine government waste, including duplicative programs, outrageous spending, and unnecessary subsidies, including tax advantages to entities or industries engaged in profit making enterprises. 

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