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tv   Lawmakers Consider Limiting Executive Power  CSPAN  August 30, 2021 3:34am-6:01am EDT

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>> good afternoon and welcome to
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the hearing on democracy reasserting congress's power. i want to introduce our witnesses for today please welcome dr. molly reynolds senior fellow at the brookings institution and director of public policy on government
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oversight -- deputy general counsel. i will now yield myself. >> exactly one year ago yesterday, -- i said it was an important step in restoring congresses constitutional -- reinforcing the combination of democracy. it should be enriched by both sides of the aisle. we have a reinvigorated l&d director with first-hand experience. we are using this committees --.
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i believe in the legislation and i'm fully committed. our believe in the good government legislation and am committed to pursuing its reforms regardless of who's in the white house. our founders need money and who controls it is -- they also knew that with elections every two years congress would be able to branch most counts. they gave us the power of the purse is a critical check on the president. congress has exercised his power by enacting foundational laws. to help protect and enforce its spending decisions, congress established the nonpartisan
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government accountability off a's which, as we all know, is charged with investigating or reporting on violations of public appreciations. presidents from both parties have pushed the boundaries of the delegated spending powers sworn to secrecy, lack of requirements and limitations on enforcement to push their own agenda. decades of this purposeful infringement on congress's power proves that congress cannot rely on the nonbinding norms in the face of the executive branch. for our government to work, the american people need to know that members in congress passed the funding bill's second law of the executive branch that will ensure their hard earned tax
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dollars go to where the grubs induce intended. we must research congresses control over spending. in ensure we are the ones. that is why i introduce the congressional power -- my legislation increases transparency by requiring the executive branch -- this helps prevent arbitrary and self-serving decision-making. it strengthens and expedites the
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ability to obtain information of agencies and acquires the executive branch to report to congress on all violations of the ada and ica. a requirement that is unbelievably absent in current law. my bill also authorizes administrative discipline government employees responsible violate the law, not only as a deterrent but also as a tool to require government employees to push back on political pressure to break the law. transparency, accountability, checks and balances. these tenants are at the core of our constitutional republic and a key proponent of arthropod -- response abilities. our committee is issuing reports and hearings with officials who voted for both trump and biden administrations and introducing work to limit comes learning ability. we continued this work today.
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today presents an opportunity to examine our framework and fiscal odds and potential shortfalls of what congress must take much light of to safeguard -- sick of the constitutional authority. including -- we have assembled an expert panel witnesses to help us and i look forward to this discussion. before i recognize the ranking number, i must earn the record -- on this bipartisan -- represents organizations across theological spectrum and demands progress, remorse, and national taxpayers union and government oversight to protect democracy.
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i think these organizations for the strong support and without objection, the submission is to be sorted. with that, i would like to yield to ranking member mr. smith. >> mr. chairman, thank you for convening this hearing. it could not be more relevant given the current state of congress's performance on budgeting and spending, it also could not be more necessary given the actions of president biden one it comes to the crisis on our southern border. specifically, his decision to abandon construction of the border wall. after congress appropriated funding for it. the president's decision to withhold funding on the border wall along with other actions his administration has taken have only fueled in human entering crisis at the southern border. as the germans where,
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republicans on the committee have called for a hearing on what we view as an unlawful holding of funding. especially given this committees stated oversight responsibilities. i appreciate that the chairman has chosen this committees first hearing to focus on issues that are related to president biden's decision to freeze funding for the border wall. this is an opportunity to exercise much needed oversight. given the chairman's previous concerns and the actions of president trump on spending appropriate in, i look forward to his comments on president biden's decision to withhold funding. since i would assume there would be a similar concern no matter who sets -- sits in the oval office. i also look forward to hearing from our gao witness about what that agency is doing as it relates to president biden's withholding of funding. members from both the house and senate to have called on gao to investigate this matter.
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it is concerning that such a request was -- in this issue area. one has to wonder why gao was not on the case the day after president biden abandoned construction of the wall. i respect the fact that the chairman will want to discuss a broader issue of congress. congress is article one authorities in the power of the purse. i welcome the discussion. part of it should center around congress, their own shortcomings in this matter, and its inability to follow or enforce its own rules. when it comes to budgeting and spending taxpayer dollars, just look at the historic record. since 1977, there have been 20 government shutdowns and congress has had to enact 192 continued resolutions, including for this fiscal year because deadlines for completing regular corporation bills have not been met. congress has failed to follow
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regular order that his passage of a budget revolution followed by 12 separate appropriation bills before the beginning of the fiscal year. every year since the fiscal year 1995. according to the congressional budget office, 1046 authorizations from 272 laws expired prior to the start of the school year 2020. appropriations for fiscal year 2020 included $332 billion attributable to expired authorization. as of right now, work on funding for the upcoming fiscal year, fiscal year 2022, is not currently on track to look much different. given delays in the budget process in the part of congress and the president, there is the growing likelihood congress starts the fiscal year with another cr or massive spending bill. in closing, we are holding a hearing on the 100th day of the present presidency, 100 days in not only did the president
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withhold funds while feeling the crisis at our border, but he fired thousands of americans by the stroke of a pen and pursue policies that will destroy jobs and drive up the cost of living for america's working class. i hope this committee will at least continue to seek enters -- answers from the administration on how they plan to budget for policies they proposed. >> mr. chairman, you are muted. >> thank you. i apologize for that. thank you for your opening statement. i am asking if any other member
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asks to make a statement senate there written statements to the record. we distributed the email to your staff, i will hold the record open until the end of the day to accommodate those members who might not yet have prepared written statements. i would like to thank our witnesses for being here this afternoon, the committee has received written statements and they will be part of the formal hearing record. he will have five minutes to give your oral remarks. please unmute your microphone before speaking. dr. reynolds, please unmute your microphone and begin when you are ready. >> thank you. chairman yarmuth come out ranking member smith and members of the committee, my name is molly reynolds and i am a senior fellow in the government studies the ash program at the brookings institute. i appreciate the opportunity to testify on how congress can better fulfill its constitutional obligation to provide full and effective oversee the executive branch. in this context, i want to make
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four points. first, because the constitution separates the legislative and executive functions, divergence between congress's intent and policy outcomes is inevitable. congress must decide in periodically redesigned mechanisms to monitor executive branch implementation policy. it's not possible for congress to try to write every policy detail into law. the executive branch has types of expertise that make it better to make certain detailed decisions. as a policy problems have become more complex, congress is increasingly finding itself incapable of writing statutes that contain all the specific choices. congress often confirms -- prefers to leave decisions to the executive branch. the circumstances mean that congress must design ways to monitor the inevitable potential for slippage. divergence can and it does occur, regardless of whether the princes are controlled by the same political party. even in an era of high
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colorization, the need for monitoring and oversight tools is structural and fundamental to the constitutional system. second, because divergence between congress and the secular branch is inevitable, so too is the need for congress to revise their procedures. the antideficiency acts requirement was made to stop the executive branch from spending down to allocations and demanding more funds. another act contains several provisions especially responding to reservations of power the second branch. several components are successors to the earlier provisions. importantly, the presidential powers targeted by these are statutory. if congress read the statute original, it should also updated periodically. the president is not the only actor whose behavior can require a response in congress. prior to the supreme court's
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decision in insp charter, provisions were and important tool in congress is arsenal. because vito provisions often include procedures that expedite consideration, they demonstrate a powerful choice by some individual members of congress. season some of the individual power to give the institution a stronger voice. he supreme court's decision disrupted that bargain and congress would be served to adapt procedures in response as title iii does for the national emergencies act. the evolution of congress's own spending bills -- processing spending bills has increased the need for oversight capacity. a on continuing resolutions read spring when shipped because the cost of congress and its constituents are letting the government shutdown so high, legislators cannot threaten to withhold funding from a specific irt or activity because the president has chosen to stray from congressional intent. when there is a partial shutdown
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of federal operations, the executive branch has discretion over which activities cease and which can continue. this discretion further undermines congress's power and shutdown confrontations. a common reaction to the brinkmanship is to call for a return to so-called regular order. in commerce's recent experience that is not as likely. given this, congress must turn to mutuals like those in the power of the purse act to ensure it gets the information it needs. finally, changes in the nature of congressional oversight also mean reforms to support congress's work are needed. historically, congress's efforts to oversee the executive branch generally followed a model of accommodation. the process has eroded in congress has had more difficulty in enforcing subpoenas against the executive branch. congress would be well served to strengthen its hand as it seeks information for the executive branch. several provisions aim to do this. the slow speed that the federal courts move constraints congress's ability to use them
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effectively as a mechanism to ensure executive compliance, even in instances where the courts are likely to side with congress. the legislative branch must work on its own behalf, just as previous congresses have done as part of the continual push and pull between the branches. while other periods of congressional demonstrations -- delegations like the 30's and 60's were followed by enhancements by congress of its own capacity to oversee the actions in the 40's and 70's. the extension of power that began after september 11 has not been met with a similar assertion of congressional authority. the power of the purse act represents an important part of that effort. and he for the opportunity to testify and i look forward to your questions. >> thank you very much. i now recognize -- 45 minutes. you have the floor. >> thank you. chairman yarmuth, ranking member smith and members of the
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committee thank you for inviting me to testify about congress's power of the purse and efforts to reclaim and reassert that power. one reading of the constitution's focus and prioritization on the legislative ranch is that the founders intended it to be the most powerful actor in the three branches of government. however, today we have an executive branch that has encroach on significant authorities that the constitution explicit the best in the lips like a branch, including the power of the purse. because of this, the executive branch yields a disproportionate amount of power in our three branch structure. a rebalancing of the power is overdue. particularly in light of growing public concern about government interruption. i am here today to ask to improve your ability to oversee how the executive branch spends the public money that congress appropriates. more specifically, i urge you to require more transparency from the white house's office of management and about how it apportions how executive agencies expend appropriate funds. now that you know what i am here
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to ask you to do i will explain why. congress has mandated that the executive branch set a schedule to disburse money that has been appropriated to agencies as an attempt to encourage responsible financial management. this is meant to prevent overspending and programmatic disruptions. the process is called a question meant. i want to emphasize this is not a inherent executive branch power, it is one congress created and it is willing congressional authority to dictate limits on how the executive exercises dysfunction. the office of management and budget exercises pursuant authority on behalf of the president. while they might delay the dispersal of funds for legitimate or technical reasons, the executive is not authorized to delay or withhold funds to achieve policy objectives. this is simply because allowing omb for the president to withhold or delay funds to achieve policy objectives would be like handing the power of the purse to the executive branch entirely.
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because if there are clear constitutional limits to the process, transparency is critical to ensure the executive is not abusing it. that's why the public might be surprised to hear that these directives are issued entirely in secret. omb issues apportionment directives both by fiscal quarter and project or a combination. though there are subject to public record requests through the freedom of information act, it is difficult to ensure consistent transparency without proactive release of the information. that means that lawmakers don't have regular access to the test -- directives or footnotes which contain more specific directions from the white house related to the funding and can be used as a way to compel or incentive i've agencies to take certain action. not only does this make it harder for congress to conduct oversight, but the lack of transparency makes it difficult for the public to have faith that taxpayer resources are being handled with integrity and
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in a manner consistent with the intent of congress. the executive branch has a history of expensively interpreting the authority is granted to it by congress. well beyond with the statuary tax would dictate. this interpretations after -- often issued by the legal counsel are issued in secret. they have ramifications on the balance of power when it comes to matters related to the power of the purse. the president's obligation to take care that the laws and spending decisions enacted by congress are executed as congress intended demand additional transparency in both areas. taking it back to our founding, congress holds the power of the purse because the founders envisioned it would be the branch of government most accountable to the people, therefore best able to build the power in a way that is responsive to the needs and interests of the public. it also reflects the founders were very concerned that investing too much authority, particularly to spend public money in an executive branch led by a single person. remember, the constitution only
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gives the executive a handful of independent authorities. none of these require secrecy around how the executive branch is this funds. the potential for the executive branch to minimal expending in secret exposes the government to corruption and undermines the balance of power between our branches of government. additional transparency around these budgetary decisions will only improve congresses capacity to oversee the executive branch spending. serving as a check against malfeasance and corruption. for example, ranking member smith, if the congressional power of the purse act was law, you and christman capital would have many of the answers to the questions you have recently asked the biden administration about how appropriated funds are being used at the southern border. that is because you have likely have timely access to the documents dictating that. i urge this committee to pass the congressional power of the purse act either as part of the sweeping anticorruption package introduced last congress titled protecting our democracy act.
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thank you for holding his hearing and forwarding to entering your questions. >> thank you very much, i recognize -- for five minutes. please unmute. >> thank you for the opportunity to discuss congress constitutional power of the purse from the government accountability office's role in serving the power, and legislative proposals to strengthen it. since our creation, gal has performed audits and investigations and issued legal decisions to support congress in its oversight of executive spending. congress has in -- given gao with response abilities -- >> your sound is breaking up.
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[inaudible] samantha, is there anyway you can -- [inaudible]
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sam, why don't we see if we can get her sound corrected. in the meantime, we'll hear from the next person. you are recognized for five minutes. please unmute. >> chairman yarmuth, ranking member smith, and members of the committee, thank you for the invitation to testify. this bill has been described as an effort to strengthen congress's power of the purse and prevent -- is ironic that as the bills being considered the president is impounding funds for the construction of a appallingly southern border. including $1.4 billion specifically appropriated for the border wall construction. based on gao's opinion on funding for ukraine, president biden's hold is illegal and in violation. the democrats and the committee have been silence on the assault on congress's power of the purse. president biden's hold is 100 days and counting, and ongoing
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hold which is twice as long as the trump 50 day hold on ukraine funds. president biden's decision to impose the funds combined with his reversal of other trump policies has led to catastrophic consequences in the crisis of human suffering at the border. the policies have facilitated increased human trafficking and other situations this is all avoidable given the good work done by president trump in his administration to address the issues at the border. even after the trump omb release the funds for ukraine after 15 days, chairman yarmuth stated that omb's unilaterally delaying the funding it was an abuse of authority provided to the president. why hasn't the chairman or any democrat issued any statements or sent document requests to dhs or omb asking about the ongoing hold? if you cared about printing impoundments your actions would
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not be governed by who is president or whether you agree with the policy. gao rejected the trump omb's argument that the president could hold funds to figure out how best to spend the funds consistent with the appropriations and the president's agenda. in contrast, president biden's hold is designed to thwart the border wall. the present pledged not to build another foot of the wall. his fy 22 request proposes to send the border wall money he is holding. the ministration is under executing congressionally appropriated funding to later rescinded. that is a fun -- flattered defiance of congressional intent. gao ukraine stated -- faithful execution of the law does not permit the president to substitute his own policy priorities for those congress has enacted.
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this bill will only make a backlog worse. the ica has undermined responsible stewardship of government spending. why? the ica incident -- d incentivizes any way to run programs more safely. he used to be established policy to faithfully implement programs with the least amount of money necessary. the ica makes the efforts potentially illegal. they overthrew 200 years of healthy executive and legislative branches are together. congress could use its powers under article one of the constitution to focus on passing detailed authorizing laws, reauthorizing the hundreds of laws that have expired and connecting separate appropriations bills on time and not in a monstrous -- monthly. the appropriations should be a needs implement in the program
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not an end itself. these are meant to increase the micromanaging of the daily operations of the executive branch. it will further undermine effective stewardship of government spending. a provision that requires funds to be available for obligation within 90 days is wrongheaded. timeline -- ensuring a timeline of when anna probation must be -- this bill will only further undermine presidential decision-making. the provision regarding publicly listed positions that have a authority will result in the doxy of federal civil servants. provision regarding demonstrated penalties to execute branch officials found to have -- there are some gray areas as to what constitutes a violation of the ica. it is worth noting that members of congress and their staff routinely call agency staff to demand they hold a portion of funds, often without purpose related to the infamy -- implementation of the program.
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during the trump administration, i provided jay with 300 examples from the state department and a three-year. for members of congress commended hold on funding. they range somewhere from 10 days to 321 days. what an agency employee be held responsible? they give the da joe -- it's unwise and unconstitutional. the long power gao meant documents when the president of the united states and if he does not comply in 20 days, gao is empowered to sue him to make an comply. congress cannot do that and gao works for congress. there are concerns with the bill , i will leave it at that. my full statement with two attachments has been submitted for the record. thank you. >> thank you for your testimony. since my name was invoked i want
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to respond to the issue of what we have done with regard to the border wall funding. within days of the announcement of the administration that they would not fund, we were in contact with them and they have been willing to engage with us on the issue. we are sticking answers from them, but when the republican senators and house members also requested the gao investigate this situation and they are currently investigating, we will respect that process as we respected it in prior occasions. hopefully, we can perez back on it. are you there?
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>> yes, sir. can you hear me? >> we can hear you, still a bit garbled. let's try it again. >> thank. i apologize for these connection problems. mr. chairman, ranking members, thank you for the opportunity to discuss skunk -- congress is constitutional power of the purse. the government -- strengthen this power. since the creation a century ago, gao has performed audits and investigations for congress in its oversight of executive spending. gao has been vested with statuary responsibilities
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[inaudible] for example, the impoundment control act. we must review any special messages the president submits -- and report to congress on a special messages improperly justified or not transmitted at all. we publish the redbook, is relied upon across the government. we teach a law course, it should be considered -- it's appropriations law matters. gao takes seriously its role, i would like to discuss several suggestions we have that will strengthen congress's power of the purse and provide increased transparency. first -- preclude the withholding of budget authority through its -- to ensure the
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obligation of appropriated budget authority. the incoming control act provides the president with the legal authority to temporarily withhold funds. it is critical to maintain the careful balance of the impoundment control act, when congress does not act to rescind funds. in 2018, we examined whether the present have the authority under the impoundment control act to withhold budget authority to incident expiration. we determined that the president does not have this authority. congress can clarify the extent of that authority by explicitly prohibiting the withholding of funds through their date of expiration. we recommend that the department of justice report to congress on whether it will prosecute reported antideficiency act violations. in addition -- contemplates
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criminal penalties for knowing and willful violations. that threat is an essential deterrent. to our knowledge, there has never been a criminal prosecution of an anti-deficiency act violation. the requirement would ensure enforcement of that. there, we recommend that congress clarify the reach of the antideficiency act to correct the underreporting -- reinstating the instruction that the agencies reported violations found by gao, we recommend that congress amend the act to require agencies to report -- we reported six anti-deficiency act
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violations to congress -- failed to report. -- do not interfere with the transparency -- recommend that congress -- congress can require the agency's report on the expired and canceled balances in their appropriation accounts. this information would increase the visibility to agency operations, strengthen congressional oversight, and health congress and gao identify potential violations of law. we recommend that congress require agencies to respond to gao's request for information within a certain. of time. delays in receiving information impede our ability -- in a timely manner and impacts
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congress's ability to conduct its oversight functions. each of these legislative proposals will strengthen congress's power of the purse, which is a key check on the power of the other branches. james madison called it the power that allows congress to reduce the overgrown prerogatives of other branches -- this completes my prepared statement. i would be pleased to answer any questions you might have, thinking. >> thank you very much for your testimony. we will begin our question and answer section. members can submit questions to be answered later in writing, those questions and responses will be made part of the formal hearing record. survey questions for the record by sending them to the court electronically within seven days. i will reserve my time for the end of the session.
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i believe the ranking member will go in his normal order. first i will recognize the gentleman from pennsylvania. >> thank you mr. chairman. i appreciate that, who are holding this hearing on such an important piece of legislation. it goes back to what happened almost a quarter of a millennium ago right here from the city i am speaking to you from, philadelphia, when our nation's founders gave congress the power of the purse, unfortunately in so many ways and not just the power of the purse, we have seen in my view a migration of power from the legislative branch to the executive branch over the past 20 or 25 years. that has happened in administrations of both parties. i think it is crucial that congress again reassert its role
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in holding the power of the purse. our founders thought we as members of the weight -- lips of the prince with god our -- guard our powers. as partisanship has taken hold and we have heard some of that this hearing, as that has taken hold, it has allowed the executive branch to creep in to our territory. i think this legislation is important and i am supportive of it. let me turn to this is simple which, i apologize if i am not getting your name exactly correctly. let me ask you specifically on the question of transparency. if congress makes a spending decision that is transparent, i am concerned about secrecy and apportionments when it is not congress.
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as i mentioned when we used our appropriations power, you have transparency. what happens right now when we see an executive apportionment? does congress -- is congress aware of it? is the public? what rules right now govern the transparency of that non-legislative process? >> thank you so much for the question. i share your frustration with the seating of power -- congressional power to the executive branch. right now, when apportionment directives are issued by omb, there is no transparency requirement. congress might see them, the public might see them if an interested party or congress asked for them and go through a lengthy accommodations progress -- process. you might receive them if members of the public submit freedom of information requests
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which take time. we might also receive -- have transparency there. it is not guaranteed, and you are right. in the way congress passes laws, those are public. i think the excess secrecy by the executive branch not only is making congressional oversight partner, but i think it is part of what is feeling this growing public concern about corruption in government. the way to answer that, i know it is a cliche, -- this is an area where more transparency would not only help congress, it would help the public. >> thank you for that. the follow-up then is what suggestions or ideas would you have on how we can improve transparency in those executive branch apportionment decisions? >> the first thing i would do is recommend passing the congressional power of the purse act.
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then, going farther than that, i think there needs to be additional transparency around opinions issued by the office of legal counsel. while the congressional power of the purse act would require transparency around issues interpreting the budget authority, that is the only section -- a subset of those opinions that would required to be transparent under this law. there is a lot of room, forcing congressional subpoenas, things like that. olc has wielded an incredible amount of power and almost always in favor of more secrecy for the executive. >> thank you very much, yield back. there you go. >> i have trouble in meeting,
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thank you. i recognize ranking member mr. smith of missouri for 10 minutes. >> first, i want to raise my frustration with these virtual hearings. it really is a disservice to all the members of the budget committee whenever one of the key witnesses you have from gao we can't understand or hear much of what she is saying. i will start my questions with her, i hope we can answer them. i do know we have retrofitted the budget room so we can do a hybrid hearing, i would strongly suggest we get back to regular order. >> we want to as soon as possible. we have connected her with a phone line now so she should be clearly audible. >> thank you mr. chairman. ms. perez, i will start with you. as you are aware, on march 23, 2021, 71 republican members of
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congress including myself joined 40 republican senators in requesting a gao legal opinion on suspension of a border wall construction contracts and withholding appropriated funds. i ask unanimous consent to submit this letter into the record. >> objection sorted. >> thank you. ms. perez, can you provide a status update on when gao will issue this opinion? >> yes. we do have right now pending a decision we are working on. we have asked omb and dhs to provide factual and legal views to us and we are expecting our responses right now mid to late next week. we did begin looking at this issue when the president announced this in january.
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of course, also accepted the request signed by you and various other members. it is something we have been looking at and are asking omb and dhs to provide us with information. >> you are telling me that dao started looking into this -- gao's are looking into this without a member of congress requesting it? >> correct. if we become aware of a potential impoundment, we start looking into it, sometimes we learn throughout from congress or the media. in this case, the president issued a proclamation. therefore, we became aware of a possibility of and impoundment control act issue and started looking at that. >> thank you ms. perez. given that this is an ongoing hold, and it is currently happening, resulting in a clear humanitarian crisis at our reporter, i believe that it's a responsibility of gao to make this decision quickly.
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as i pointed out in prior laterals, when gao addressed ukraine funding of the prior administration that was after this was done. when senator van hollen submitted at the letter, it was in december and january 16 you had a decision. i definitely want to encourage, because of the crisis on the southern border that this decision gets out there easily. i think it is pretty straightforward that this administration is violating the law. i just would highly encourage that for what is going on. as a member of congress, that is the power of the purse. i would like to -- it has been 100 days since president biden has suspended the border wall
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funding. can you tell me what day it was that gao started to look into this? >> when we heard of the president's decision to pause the funding. we heard the declaration he made, we started talking within gao to start looking at what are the issues we need to find, who do we need to talk to, what kind of information do we need to obtain. and of course, subsequently we received the request from members like yourself. >> i look forward to that and i hope you will notify us sc needs to have a decision. >> absolutely. we start -- at the urgency for having these decisions done as quickly as possible, we look forward from hearing from omb
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and dhs soon, we hope that will give us the information we need to make that. >> thank you. it has been 100 days since president biden suspended construction of the southern border wall and pause funding for construction. these actions appeared in my opinion to highlight the impoundment control act. this committee was very active in its oversight of the executive branch last congress. the democrats have seemingly been pretty silent on the biggest power of the purse -- powers of this current administration. that is why my colleagues and i on this committee have demanded a hearing on the administration's constitutional abuses, the violation of u.s. law on unjust because -- pause on wall construction. i'm glad the hearing provides an opportunity to discuss the issues and i ask unanimous consent to submit the letter written by republicans.
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>> objection sorted. >> thank you mr. chairman. under the impoundment control act, what are permissible grounds to hold or pause funds? >> you can pause -- thanks mr. smith. you can pause funds if you can send a deferral notice to the congress. you can pause funds if you're setting up a rescinding passage. if you're on the day-to-day management of your funds, it is interesting to listen to this discussion. if you are trying to influence the program, you need to pause the money and figure out how best to spend the money within the confines of the appropriation. omb has the authority to as the testimony discussed. it is day to day operations within omb to apportion funds. if you have two-year funds, he might apportion it so that half
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the funds are unavailable for the first year. that is in apportion, putting the funds off. the executive branch does as day-to-day executive branch of influencing programs. >> i want to get this right. funds cannot be withheld for a policy reason? >> in terms of -- my view is so long as -- if you are trying to implement the program consistent with the appropriations and there are multiple ways you can do that, it is consistent with the appropriation and trying to figure out if you can -- one example is the who funds. the appropriation was to fund international organizations. there are scores of them. congress when they passed the appropriations said pass -- you have so much money to fund the international organizations. one was the who. deposit the funds, to figure out
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where else could we spend that money within the appropriation? that is a policy discussion about how best to acquire those funds in the scope of that appropriation. what is happening with president biden's hold is that he is specifically thwarting the appropriation. he wants to defy the law. >> i am about to run out of time and i want to try to get some stuff in the record as quickly as possible. if you could give me your opinion quickly, i would appreciate it. do you believe the executive branch violated gao standard of the impoundment control act when it began with holding funds for the border wall? >> 100%. >> do you believe withholding funding for the border wall is an attempt by the administration to circumvent congressional intent? >> i don't need to think that, the president has said that. >> how is pausing from city
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border wall different than the temporary hold that occurred on funds for ukraine, which as you know, gao investigated. >> we pause those funds and allow the policy process to go on. if you look at the hold it was 10 days. it was to get a policy discussion because the president expressed concerns about the spending of that money. we posit for 10 days and had shoulder holds to allow a discussion to happen, it was to be done consistent with that appropriation and it was. perfect, when it comes to congress's power the purse it appears that congress itself is failing to do its job. as i mentioned in my opening statement, congress failed to follow regular order when it comes to budgeting and reauthorizing programs. would you agree that a focus when discussing article one authorities should include how congress has on its own, seated
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its power of the purse by allowing to authorize an appropriate in a detailed manner? >> 100%. >> congress has consistently failed to meet its budget and appropriation response abilities for fiscal 2021 alone. for continued resolutions were enacted before enacting a huge appropriations act and congress has missed its deadline to pass the fiscal year 2022 budget resolution. therefore, it appears fiscal year 2022 funding will likely be delayed end result in another omnibus appropriations act. can you comment on how congress is required for gentlemen's time has expired. i have been generous with you. >> i appreciate that. i think, mr. chairman, we probably could be more efficient in asking questions if we could actually be in the room. i would reiterate on behalf of the house republicans that we are already, we are already to
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stand in a committee room it with a mask or without a mask. if you need all of us to sign to do that, we will do it. >> you made your position clear. i appreciate that. i yield five minutes from the gentleman from north carolina. >> thank you mr. chairman. i would like to review for episodes from 2019 as the premise will my question. president trump withheld julie appropriate to funds from ukraine, the gao later determined that was in fact an attempt to extort the president. he withheld funds appropriated funds, from the west bank and gaza, foreign aid funds. he did the same with funds to the northern triangle countries of central america. we struggled to get those funds reinstated. thirdly, in early 2019, later mcconnell acquiesced in trump's
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demand that the border situation be declared a national emergency. that left -- let us reopen the government but freed the president to spend on appropriated funds on his border wall. fourthly, in 2019, president trump bypassed congressional review under the arms export control act for arms sales to saudi arabia by declaring an emergency. i would like mr. chairman to ensure that we can hold a record open for any republican members who would like to document the kind of objections they made at that time to any of these actions. >> we can hold the record open for a week. we will do that for a week. >> i think that would be useful to see what kind of objections were made to any of these by a republican colleague. my questions are these, maybe we start with miss reynolds.
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first of all, how do we do something about this unrestrained, uncontrolled declaration of emergencies? what kind of boundaries should be placed around a president's power to declare emergencies and then spend money as he pleases? whether he spends the money or diverts it from appropriated sources. secondly, how can appropriations be protected? we struggled in the state and foreign operations appropriations subcommittee to figure out how in writing the next year's bill, how do we prevent another withholding the west bank and gaza funds question mark how do we prevent a total shutoff of any funds to address the sources of migration and central america? are there additional -- did we miss something? we had a hard time doing this. those two questions, also, how
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do you protect appropriations? >> i am happy to offer a few comments first. representative price, on the national emergency space i think one of the most powerful pieces of the power of the purse act is a proposal of -- that would shift the current mechanism for congressional review of national emergency's declarations from a joint resolution of disapproval to a joint resolution of approval. as i mentioned in my statement, this is a situation arises in part because of a supreme court decision in 83. there are other examples where congress has said that he believes it should have the power to review and an approval manner decisions made by the executive branch. the rescissions and provisions of the congressional budget act are one example. i would point to that in response to your first question. in response your second question, i think some of the aspects of the power of the purse act, especially around the
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transmission of information from the executive branch of the legislative branch, are the kinds of things you are for to guarantee that in your case the state in foreign operations subcommittee is getting as much good information in a timely fashion that it can. >> i agree with everything dr. reynolds said. i want both the house and senate. the president had to use the first veto of his presidency to veto the congress telling him that we object to this emergency authority being used in this way, immediately after we had long government shutdown over this very issue. i want to highlight that members of congress from both sides objected, not because they objected to always to the policy that was being enacted by the
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president to build the border wall, because they objected to how he was making a run around congress and really usurping the congress's power of the person in that instance. so i wanted to highlight that and are the national emergencies act, again committed these are authorities that they have given to the executive, so it does not make sense to me that it is easy for the executive to work against congress's expressed intent, when it comes to executing those powers. so, i think that the voting or a vote by congress, as envisioned by part of the congressional power of the purse act, or congress has to approve an emergency for it to go longer than 30 days, is exactly the way to address that problem. rep. price: thank you for your response. chairman yarmuth: your time has expired. >> i wanted to offer the thought that we have had no standing
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complaint about executive actions, whoever the president is, until we clean up our own house. our refusal, under democratic and republican majorities, where our own rules meet our own responsibilities -- we are facing today. three issues, our failure to follow our own rules and appropriations, ou failure tor follow our statutory responsibilities under the 1974 budget act, and finally the return to earmarks that i am ashamed to say that we are --. first, let's talk about unauthorized appropriations. ever since 1835, the rules of the house of required that appropriations may only be for purposes authorized by law. under that law, which is still on the books, any lubricant reads a point of order to block any unauthorized appropriation.
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this provision established progress that was essential for the houses to meet its responsibilities. first, it has to be authorized by congress in a process that begins in the authorizing committee. only then, does the separate action appropriate funding for it. this process imposes on congress the responsibility periodically to -- as the authorization expires, congress has to revisit it it to ask the questions, is it effective is it still needed -- and is it still needed? depending on the answers, congress can reform it or let it die. so, the failure of this house to agree on recent appropriations is often degenerated into these continuing resolutions. and when we do pass
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appropriations bills, about one third of the discretionary spending is for purposes not authorized by law. they are from years or even decades ago. this is happening because of the 1835 rule for bidding appropriations strips members of their rights to object. and the second issue is our failure to follow the budget law. in the act, it gave the house a very powerful set of tools to control spending and balance the budget. for years, i have heard it said that the budget is only an aspirational document offering a vision for the government to take. , that is not true it is an operational document, the single most important tool we have to control spending. the problem is we do not use it. and have also heard that -- for mandatory spending and it is
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beyond our control. but budget resolution sets limits on the discretionary side, appropriated annually, about one third of our budget. it also limits the mandatory spending, about two thirds of the budget. but it also gives us powerful tools to enforce both limits, but congress does not use it. on the discretionary side is the deadline, as it approaches, the shutdown looms, the appropriation bills are cast aside in favor of stopgap measures that continue without reforms. on the mandatory side, enforceable limits are supposed to be placed in the reconciliation instructions sent to the house. then the committees are required to make statutory changes. if the committees failed to act, the budget committee can do so directly. but this process is never used. why? because decisions on reforming mandatory spending are those difficult decisions in our fiscal policy, easier not to make them.
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and then finally, i want to address the return to earmarks. it's a ominous development -- an ominous develop. there has been incredible since magna carta that the author that appropriates money should not be the same authority that spends the money. that's why we have a separation of powers, congress makes law, the president enforces law but cannot make it. congress declares war, but cannot wage it. the president wages war, but cannot declare it. congress appropriates money, but cannot spend it. the president spends money but cannot appropriate it. there is a reason why earmarks -- they break down the powers at the center of our constitutional architecture. i would simply say in response, with all due respect, dear brutus is not in our stars and it is not in our president, but it is in ourselves. i yield back.
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chairman yarmuth: five minutes to the gentleman from illinois. >> thank you. you know, i have to be honest, other than the members of congress, the legal and constitutional scholars, i really do not believe that most everyday americans are thinking about congress's power of the purse and what the framers intended. and while i certainly believe that it's critical that the congress control how the people's tax dollars are spent, the people are thinking more about things like whether or not they have access to quality health care, that their children are safe at school, and that they are able to pay their
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bills, rents and mortgage. so what i would like to do is go witness by witness, and ask if you can give me an example of why these questions about the control of a federal spending matter in the real world. i will start with ms. reynolds. keep it short because i do not have much time. dr. reynolds: i think what is important to remember is that congress and the executive branch have roles to play. the executive branch makes decisions, but somebody has to make sure those are good decisions and that is congress's response ability. if you have a constituent that waits a long time on hold for social security, how else are you supposed to help them than overseeing what is happening? >> that is good, that is an example. and ms. hempowicz, did i get it?
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mrs. hempowicz: you did. even i am not sitting around my kitchen table talking about these decisions, but one thing, not a specific example, but i think the growing tension between congress and the executive branch and the fights that play out over access to information and documents that congress needs to conduct rigorous oversight, i think that is permeating to the kitchen table. as we see -- that points to the necessity for bills like the congressional power of the purse act, to show constituents we are doing what we can to empower -- your concerns. >> i hear you. ms. perez, if you could answer that as well. ms. perez: certainly. yes, it's important because even
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though everyday citizens may not be looking specifically at these types of decisions all the time, they do see where the government gives them service, they see where the branches are either negotiating or not negotiating, so it is important for them to make sure that everybody has the information needed in order to carry out our conscience. >> and mr. paoletta, go ahead. even though i have a feeling what you're example will be. can you give us an example? go ahead. mr. paoletta: it is important for congress to write clear laws. so they set out the program requirements, and then the executive branch will implement that law. that is the problem in terms of why people are sort of, when they watch congress and the executive branch fighting, it's
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a lack of clarity from congress as to what they expect from the executive branch. what i see is congress encroaching on the executive branch and their implementation of the law. they passed the law, they cannot implement the law day today. that is what the president does, his constitutional responsibility. so writing clear laws so there is better focus on how those laws are implemented. >> thank you. i barely have time for my question, which is about the role of the gao. i will jump to if you can elaborate on what they decision plays in the congressional oversight of the executive spending? i know you talked a little bit about that, but if you can elaborate on that. >> the role of gao is really to
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help congress. it's important that congress has the information it needs, and gao with its decisions is the one providing that information, and really helping congress in terms of carrying out those laws and the power of the purse, and ensuring congress can make changes as it sees fit, and make sure the executive is carrying that out of rep. lieu:. >> i've always felt has played a very constructive role, so thank you for that. chairman yarmuth: i now recognize the gentleman for five minutes. you need to unmute. he has left the building. uh, i do not see him. we'll come back to him. i now recognize the gentleman from michigan for five minutes.
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[indiscernible] is mr. smucker available? >> yes, can you hear me? chairman yarmuth: yes. >> ok, sorry about that. you calmly by surprise a little bit. -- caught me by surprise a little bit. but thank you so much for holding this hearing, mr. chairman. i was pleased that we are holding a hearing on this topic, and a surprise, given the actions taken by president biden on his very first day in office relative to the -- relative to the border wall. i think if we were to be
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consistent with the comments made last congress by democrats and by the chairman, we should be calling this executive order illegal. you all know -- i do not know if i specifically heard that word today, but this is an important discussion to have. and certainly to the point made earlier about what people care about, people certainly care, in my district, about what is happening on the southern border. we have seen a real crisis here at the border. i saw firsthand, along with many of my colleagues who have visited the border and have seen the impact on the border, certainly the impact on the border patrol agents, who are just completely overwhelmed. so, this is a real crisis we are dealing with as a result of what i think is an illegal action by the president, for using the
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construction on the southern border wall -- for freezing the funds for the construction on the southern border wall. i wonder why you waited -- why you would make that statement, as we and last congress talked about president trump's actions, do you believe the president's actions in this case were illegal? >> i do. it is clear from his actions and statements. in his campaign, he said he would not -- law on his first day, he issued an executive order pausing all funds. and august action has been completely stopped, a terrible policy for purposes of legality. his press secretary also said they would not spend anymore money on the wall. then he put it in his discretionary request, that he wants to have congress resend --
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rescind obligated balances. that is completely different from the trump administration, which was trying to figure out how to spend the funds. so consistent with appropriations, it was not defying the appropriations. that is why this is illegal. and talking internally, it would be interesting to know when they reached out to ask their views. it seems it was well after the few months when the senators in the house sent a letter, asking to look at it. >> we we'll have an opportunity to answer that a little later, but i would like to hear from you, why do you think we are not talking about this in those terms, particularly when we have seen colleagues on the other cited the aisle really talk about the administration last cycle? why are we not doing that this cycle relative to the section? mr. paoletta: i was under -- we
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were on the receiving end of the letter from the chairman on september 20 7, 2019, asking us for documents -- 27, 2019, asking us for documents. it was a little different in terms of how it was handled. and the media has been completely silent on this. there was a politico story for the biden hold. so, it is really, to me, disappointing that if you are going to be -- restricting the power of the purse, you would be doing it with this president. >> i am running out of time. i appreciate the chairman holding this hearing, i said it and i meant that. he has introduced legislation that would give the budget committee more responsibility to the gao. i think a better solution would be to empower this committee to
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fulfill its responsibility in the government funding process, and i am talking about working up a budget resolution for the given fiscal year, which we have not done and it is now nearly may. we have yet to even consider a fiscal year 2022 budget resolution. meanwhile, the appropriators are already drafting their bills. additionally, under threat of a second multitrillion dollar bill being passed through reconciliation. it's a tool that is supposed to be used to reduce the deficit, not increase it. i think that restoring fiscal accountability, transparency and responsibility, you have got to return the regular order within this budget committee to -- for us to continue to be a key player in this process. it's very important we do that. chairman yarmuth: thank you. i will not recognize -- will now
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recognize that we are waiting for the next person. so, we'll be able to know the gao's opinion. has the next person returned? i will not recognize ms. chu. >> thank you. dr. reynolds, i represent a district in california, and in california there are several so-called sanctuary cities. these are cities that were very disturbed with the trump administration's approach to immigration enforcement, and especially with his wanting federal law enforcement to enter local jails to question and prosecute people for their
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citizenship status, and therefore frighten members of their cities, who might not cooperate with the police. well, one of president trump's first executive orders directed federal agencies to withhold funds from these a sanctuary cities. the order was repeatedly blocked, of course, but the administration continue to pursue it. then there was another attempt, when california was about to hit the peak of coronavirus cases. that is when the administration announced it would withhold $200 million in medicaid funding because of the state's requirement to all private health plans cover abortion services. not only did this but the lives of californians in danger as they fought off a pandemic, it
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showed overreach because the funding the trump administration threatened to withhold had nothing to do with the violations or restrictions on abortion funding. these repeated attempts to place unauthorized restrictions and conditions on congressionally appropriated funds was another attempt at encroachment on congress's power of the purse, but it is also democratic. unelected officials seeking to withhold funds unilaterally without responding to voters and getting approval in congress. can you talk about the accountability measures the executive branch abuses when it circumvents congress? how have americans been left out of the process when it happens this way? dr. reynolds: it is a great question, and i think it comes back to the heart of what is on the table when we talk about this legislation, which is congress needs as much
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information as it can get from the executive branch to make responsible spending decisions, and that includes information around the types of things that you are describing. i want to also reiterate something i mentioned in my testimony, which is the increasing reliance or need to rely on the federal courts by congress to enforce its spending and other policy decisions. and one major challenge there, one of the reasons congress must bolster its own authority, is because that process is incredibly slow. you mentioned sanctuary cities in california, and talked about the length of time the court fight went on, but we have many examples of lengthy court fights. one of the reasons congress needs to get itself more tools is so it is not have to turn to the federal courts, who move slowly in this area, to try to
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have that as a backstop in these disputes. >> thank you. now i want to ask ms. perez a question about the ability for gao to operate. i'm the -- or i was last october the chair of the subcommittee in the oversight for the small business committee and the director of the gao testified that the trump administration refused to give access to documents and information concerning the implementation of their paycheck protection program. and also resisted implementation for an oversight plan for ppp until december. using this example, can you describe why gao needs timely access to agency documents and information, and how it may have hampered an limitation and congressional oversight of the program? ms. perez: this is an example of when gao needs access to
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information as quickly as possible to be able to carry out oversight. in the programs you are describing, obviously we are looking at the cares act, various funds provided there. in order to give congress the most timely advice and review, we need to have that information promptly. with delays, unfortunately, it delays reporting to congress and our ability to give you the advice you need and information that you need, so that definitely has an impact on congress's oversight. >> thank you. i yield back. chairman yarmuth: i now recognize the gentleman from
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texas for five minutes. dr. burgess, unmute please. i can see you on the straight. -- screen. dr. burgess, you have five minutes. >> ok, can you hear my question? chairman yarmuth: now we hear you. >> thank you. thank you to the witnesses for joining us today. it's good to see you again, mr. paoletta, who spent a good time in the chamber of commerce, in the subcommittee that i have
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always held in high regard. one of the most important in the united states house of representatives. um, but i am going to just ask again, mr. paoletta, and i think that ranking member smith and representative smucker also made this point, but it seems that we have a set of parallel circumstances, january 16 of 2020, the government accountability office determined that the president could not withhold funds for policy reasons. and then on his first day in office, he signed a proclamation, causing all funding for the border wall construction to halt, and directing the secondary of defense -- to create plans to redirect the funds. so, is there a substantial difference between the actions of then president trump and now president biden in regards to
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those two activities? mr. paoletta: they are completely different. when the funds were paused on ukraine, the first 10 days was literally to try to pause the funding, because there had been concerns about the funding, but there was a process. it did not end the process. he wanted to allow a policy discussion to have been. and at the end of the day, the funds stayed consistent with the appropriation. what is happening here is it is completely designed to halt the appropriation because the president has already said he doesn't want ability border wall. his executive order says it is a waste of money. so everything about the plan -- >> if i could, the gao made a determination when president trump paused the funding that
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seems like it would have to be consistent and he would have to make the same decision about the border wall funding, so the inconsistency coming to a different conclusion, given those two fact sets, it would be possible, would it? mr. paoletta: it would be impossible. >> that is what is frustrating for so many of us. i live on the northern border, not the southern border, but i take many trips there and to see the construction literally halted with big gaps, that's where the cartels are directing their human smuggling and human trafficking. it is heartbreak. it's -- in fact, president biden's commander of the health service at the convention center where 2400 of these young men were under emergency hold, he
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said, we are responding to a crisis management situation. well, you wouldn't have a crisis management situation without a crisis. look, i just left a hearing, and we are talking about the budget process here today, something that can board people, but something you are -- bore people, but something you are familiar with is -- going back to a report of 2015, when they suggested that title 42 exceptions to salaries in the epa were never authorized by the u.s. congress. and, in fact, i had an opportunity to question the new administrator and he seemed unaware of that, but he made a promise he would come back with transparent and forthright data for the subcommittee about their hires. they are going to hire a bunch of new people.
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they thought the trump administration made too many cuts, so they are on a hiring spree, and it concerns me that having never authorized title 42 exemptions for the salaries for the senior executives, that the possibility of overspending on those positions is a very real one. would you agree that the authorization needs to be it -- before the expenditure can happen? mr. paoletta: that is the best way to do it, to authorized programs, and again, you would need to -- it would be best to authorize before you appropriate. >> and i have to also talk about two normal hearings. -- to normal hearings. the doctor sent a letter to her house leadership, many of us have been vaccinated, others have had the illness -- we need to be able to meet in a more normal fashion, because there is so much you get out of it in
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person that you cannot get -- like when you see the technical problems we have encountered here. we have to get past that point. we cannot do the people's business if we cannot meet as the people intended. i will yield back. thank you. chairman yarmuth: thank you, dr. burgess. i was going to save this until the end, but i will commit to the ranking member, and to all members, that the next meeting we have i will be in the hearing room. and we will at least do that at that point. so, i want to nominate my friends on the other side to do the same. i now yield five minutes to the gentlewoman from the virgin
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islands. >> thank you for holding this hearing to explore how congress can reassert its power of the purse. i appreciate the opportunity to examine the mission. several of my colleagues have noted, despite the constitution's delegation of tax and spending powers to congress, various administrations have infringed on this authority in recent decades. this infringement is concerning because it represents a shift in power away from her constituents, who elected us, and therefore a weakening of their voices in decisions regarding funding and allocations. dr. reynolds, this issue is particularly personal for me and for my constituents. the american people of the virgin islands. as some of you may remember, two category 5 hurricanes struck the virgin islands in 2017, and caused devastating amounts of damage that my constituents are still grappling with every day.
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when eisai still grappling with -- when eisai still grappling with, we have not put up to this date the mobile hospital unit. fema and others have not agreed, until recently, on the mobile unit for us to have a hospital, never minded the rebuild of the hospital. while congress appropriated billions of dollars to provide emergency relief for areas impacted by the hurricane, such as the example i gave you, the previous administration significantly delayed the dispersal of the funding to the virgin islands and to puerto rico. these delays have negatively impacted our ability to recover from this disaster, to rebuild and prepare for future hurricanes. we have seen this in the inspector general reports just recently about puerto rico. can you speak to how recent encroachment by the executive branch on congress's power of
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the purse can lead to prioritization of a president's political priorities over the needs of constituents? >> yes, thank you. i appreciate the question. i think that your experience illustrates one of the challenges that's inherent in congress and to the executive branch having to work together to deliver services, and meet the needs of the american people. and i think that, again, one of the purposes of this legislation of the issues we are talking about is to try to make sure that you, as members of congress, are getting more information, better information, in a timely fashion to be able to say to the executive branch, you are not doing what we intended with our spend powers, when we told you you have this money to spend, in your case,
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for replacing or building a mobile unit for a hospital in your district. so, i think again that that is why this matters, and i appreciate you raising this. >> that leads me to mrs. hempowicz. you discussed the lack of transparency with showing how money is allocated in an agency, and you recommended that congress require omb to publicly post all apportionments, including special notes and documents. can you speak to how these decisions can sometimes be used to advance a president's policy goals, rather than serving the intended administrative services? mrs. hempowicz: thank you for the question. you are right, i think that the footnotes, the apportionment footnotes are very technical
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things. an example of that is saying that money that has been appropriated cannot be spent until a report has been issued about how the funds will be spent or how the funds will be managed. but there is no requirement for specificity, so you can also get something as big as, we are going to do -- as vague as, we are going to do a process to see what is the best purpose for these funds. it does not tell congress or the american people a lot. what policy are you trying to accomplish? and that, i should say, was the reason given in the footnote on the hold for the ukraine assistance. so, i think that goes to show that the vague explanations are part of the problem. if there was more transparency to congress, you could see that explanation, reach out to the white house, the state
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department and essay, what is this interagency process -- and say, what is this interagency process? if you do not have the information you need to conduct oversight, nefarious things can be going on that the congress or public will never know about and you cannot correct for. >> thank you. and thank you for the opportunity, mr. chairman. this is very insightful. i yield back. chairman yarmuth: i now -- he's in the room, but i do not see him. mr. carter, are you here? ok. if not, um, i do not see ms. weston. but i know that i see mr. scott. i appreciate that. we will come back and get others who might have been thrown off by the change in schedule .five minutes to mr. scott. rep. scott: i would like to ask
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ms. perez, what is the legal effect of a gao conclusion that empowerment is inappropriate? any enforcement effect? ms. perez: it does not enforce the decisions we issue. they are intended for both the congress and executive branch to have the benefit of those legal decisions. in the case of an impoundment control act decision, when we say the act has been violated, the effect is for the executive branch to immediately have to release the funding, release the withholding and ensure that the funds get obligated on time. rep. scott: if there is a disagreement, what is the recourse if there's -- if the executive branch disagrees with your decision? what is the recourse under the
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present law and under the legislation? >> if gao cannot enforce the decision, it is up to congress to enforce it. so for any appropriations a issue, congress can't enforce that. under the chairman's power of the purse act, it would provide additional authority for the executive branch to not take these additional legal practices and try to use them in a way that is not in accordance with the impoundment control act or other laws. it would be emphasizing certain reporting, certain actions, that the executive branch would have to take in ensuring that they are following the decisions as shown by gao. rep. scott: you mentioned congress, how does it enforce
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the violation? ms. perez: congress, as part of its own legislative congress, congress has taken actions before in either cutting the budget from agencies or identifying areas where they feel like action must be taken. so, they can do that with that oversight of the legislative process. rep. scott: for the appropriated, but the defense of the issue of rules, and executive branch refuses to propagate the rules, what happens in that case? ms. perez: it would depend on whatever law is authorizing it, the rules being required of the executive branch. we would be taking a look at whether there's certain actions we have to take bylaw and
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identified if they have not done so. and that would be up to congress to enforce that. rep. scott: can you say a word about violations that happen during the government shutdown? ms. perez: with the government shutdown, one of the issues we have seen, and we've issued a number of decisions on this, is that agencies may have often tried to expand on the authorities they have to continue operations. under the act, it's very specific that the only exceptions are for constitutional duties, as well as for emergency situations, not for regular operations or ongoing operations. so, we do have a couple examples where agencies would be on the act. the other thing we would recommend would be that congress has more oversight, you know, the ability to see how agencies are propagating funds during
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shutdowns. understanding their plans, and they would see what activities they carried out. that would be helpful in terms of the oversight that gao can assist of the congress with. rep. scott: what can be done if -- in these cases, you have an executive branch and legislative branch, highly contentious, so what can actually be done if the executive agency goes ahead and spends the money? ms. perez: if an agency violates at the anti-efficiency act, and it's found they violated the act, what we said is the agency issued a the violation to congress. in reporting that violation, they will provide information about the rationale for using the funds, what actions they are taking with respect to ensuring
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it does not recur, and any discipline. so, we think having congress make sure that those violations are recorded and reported will help with transparency and oversight. rep. scott: i yield back. chairman yarmuth: legitimate' -- the gentleman's time has expired. five minutes to the representative from iowa. >> thank you. thank you, mr. chair for having us here today. i want to thank every witness for their testimony. i am new to congress, but not new to the government finance, especially when it comes to city and state government. i was a city administrator and state senator, so i am very cognizant of budgets. in my home state, we do not spend more than we take in. we have a 99% spending level.
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i have found little concern of this at the federal level. mr. chairman, you said on the house floor that the national debt will rise to $50 trillion in the next couple decades. you mentioned several historical points, but did not mention in terms of debt to gdp. it's about 50%. today, it is well over 100% and we are in uncharted waters, which we cannot shrug off as we move forward. i'm new here, but you do not need to be a member of congress to see that we are piling up debt and it has consequences. mr. paoletta, the national oceanic and atmospheric administration has existed for over 50 years without ever being codified into law. in 2015, a report highlighted many federal agencies, hud, and
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the national weather service have not been reauthorized in decades. last year, they released a report that had found $332 billion of funding provided to 407 expired authorizations. it seems there is more ways than the impound control act for congress to reclaim the power of the purse. we could try to do our jobs and pass legislation through regular order rather than spending weeks on bills and talking points. i have been digging into these reports and we have a lot of things to do. my question is, you have worked both on committee and at the omb , do you believe the autopilot funding and authorizing impacts how the executive branch functions? who benefits from this, the executive or congress? mr. paoletta: the people who do not benefit are the american people. congress needs to do their job
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and authorize programs in clear an understandable termsd on how programs are supposed to work. the fact that there are hundreds of unauthorized programs. it's outrageous. and passing omnibus appropriations that throw massive amounts of money out in a big way, that has the legislative branch encroaching into the executive branch on how to implement. but congress needs to do is to pass a budget, pass appropriations bills on time. that is the best way to make our government work. um, that's as simple as it can be. >> i agree. how does the -- did the train go off the rails? how does this begin and how do we get back on track? mr. paoletta: i think that congress -- i'm not going to --
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i think it is about congress's control, to pass their budgets, to authorize programs and pass appropriations bills on time. i'm not sure what the answer is, but i know the way it is run right now, having worked in both branches and and omb, it is very difficult. what's interesting is at the idea that there is going to be a lot of appropriations, and then congress is going to come in on individual levels and to tell the executive how to spend the money. that's not their role, what is past as law is the guiding light on how you will implement a program. one more point, if i may come in terms of transparency, it would be useful if transparency was applied to congress. we all talk about the transparency of the executive branch and sunlight being the best disinfectant.
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it's outrageous that congress is not subject to this. and the gao is not subject to foia. so, one of the witnesses said, you pass the law, but what went into that law? and what should you be doing when it is enacted? i think that foia applying to congress would help the system work better. >> i agree 100%. thank you. i yield back. chairman yarmuth: ok. i now recognize the gentlewoman from iowa. i think she was the first one not on today. >> thank you. can everyone hear me? ok. thank you for holding this hearing. i believe this is an important topic, and i want to thank my colleague from iowa for his comments. it's been difficult for us to do
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our jobs here when congress is failing at doing its basic oversight, its job of authorizing and appropriating. i have only been in congress for a few months and i am already concerned about the lack of transparency in washington. i think it is important that congress does a reassert -- that congress reasserts his control over the power of the purse. i am a member of the budget committee and there is a reason the committee is required to -- because we see the authorizations from this budget committee all the way out the door. and i personally believe that it is incredibly important to advocate for the taxpayers of iowa, and this country come in fighting for transparency throughout the process. so, my first question today is for mrs. hempowicz:, you have a lot of -- you have done a lot of work on accountability, freedom of information, so how does the impact of poor decisions, like
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we have seen with the interruption of the security funds, bring concerns about transparency in this process? mrs. hempowicz: i think that the fact that these are issued in secret makes it much more difficult for congress to fulfill its role as overseeing this bidding process. mr. paoletta said it is the executive's job to implement the law, but that is not the only job of the executive, it's to implement the law with the intent of congress in mind. when there is no transparency, and we see there is room for flexibility for the executive to interpret things as they see fit and in ways that may be or run counter to the congressional intent, then there is a lot of room for manipulation in this process. and i think transparency is one of the things, not the only thing, but one thing that will dramatically rebalance power
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between the executive and congress. >> what do you think about the transparency or impact on transparency when an administration fails to notify congress of what it is doing? mrs. hempowicz: it goes to congress's decreased ability to conduct oversight over the executive branch, something that the project on government oversight believes is incredibly important, no matter who is in the white house. the list transparency means it takes longer for congress to do the oversight, get the information, because eventually you will likely get it, but in that time what have you missed? it's also important to mention how fighting with the executive branch to release information to congress takes up so much time on your staff. your staff has so many responsibilities, to execute things in a given day. if there was transparency required in the law, proactive transparency that will give you a lot of the information, you could redirect staff towards
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more important things because you have access to those documents and now you can't fulfill your oversight function. >> thank you for your feedback. my next question is for ms. perez. you are familiar with our constitution, so as we read the section that gives the executive branch of the authority to spend, do they have the authority to spend funds for purposes other than what congress has appropriated? ms. perez: the purpose is that with the purpose or with the actual appropriations of themselves, the executive branch does have to follow what the congress has appropriated. congress is sometimes more specific in some cases and what the funds should be spent on, but there are also times when they have provided discretion to the executive. but the intent is the executive branch must follow the laws congress has passed. >> i agree, legislative intent
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is paramount. so, you also talk about the end, control act was enacted to stop executive overreach. what do you consider to be executive overreach and what actions are being taken to prevent overreach in this current administration when it comes to the border wall? ms. perez: obviously, we have the decision pending and we have not issued it yet, and we are waiting for information. part of what we did was immediately start to contact the agencies, when we learned of the proclamation from the president, and start to ask for information, then following up with development letters. the purpose of the impoundment control act is we need to look at that there is a process there, and that the president must follow that process, to notify congress with specific conditions provided by the law. and to not, for example, proposed deferrals for policy reason.
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and in the case of a policy situation, the only process is to propose the decision. so we look at what is the executive branch carrying out, we'll look at the rate of obligation, we look at, for example in these cases, what has omb instructed? those are could go parts of the analysis. >> i would like to ask unanimous consent to submit a letter for the record, that was written today to the vice president, requesting an up-to-date -- on spending. so i will ask for that today. i yield back. chairman yarmuth: i now recognize mr. klein of virginia for five minutes. >> thank you, i appreciate you holding this important hearing, the power to direct federal spending is congress's most important tool, so i am pleased we are holding this hearing regarding ways that congress has
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power of the purse against executive branch overreach. this is timely, as president biden has announced withholding funds for the southern border wall. there are other issues, including how congress can create federal legislation, rather than relying on ominous bills. so i will ask mr. paoletta, the power of the purse act modified gao's role in budget and appropriation law, do you have any thoughts about the power of the purse that would make administrative and possibly criminal consequences on the federal bench -- on federal employees in the executive branch have been found to violate the act? mr. paoletta: thank you for the question. the problem with the impoundment control act is it is a very confusing law. i think that it puts fellow employees in a difficult position. you have the antideficiency act
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that you cannot spend more money than you have. that, if it was intentional, it would be criminal. and on the flipside, if you are not spending all of your funds, you could be in trouble with the administrative side. i think that gao proposed criminal penalties for impounding funds. but the problem with -- so, i think it is a bad policy idea to impose sanctions on individuals with respect to the act. >> thank you. i will ask ms. perez, congress's reliance on omnibus appropriations is not the ideal way to effectively budget and govern. what are some findings with regards to this negative perspective of this type of governing? what is your opinion on agency
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budgets and to their ability to adequately plan? ms. perez: we have looked at the impact of continuing resolutions, multiple resolutions during the year, or actually having them for a full year. what we have found in our work, and we will provide the information, si that -- is that they are passed with having to rework. for example, multiple attempts to be able to implement grants or to be able to award contracts because you have shorter periods for the funding to be available. we have seen delays in hiring and other programs being implemented because with the continuing resolution, one of the things or prerogatives congress has is to put everything on hold that's status quo, so the agencies have an impact on implementing new
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authority. we have seen a number of those issues in our work. with respect to looking at how that can be approved, we have certainly also seen issues with the budget process, when there is a continuing resolution, there is an impact on the agencies as well in being able to plan their budgets and how they will implement them, so we definitely have seen some negative impacts there. >> can you talk about the ways the gao can measure the amount of weight generated from government shutdowns? have you ever produced a report related to government shutdowns and the amount of weight produced? >> we have done work on government shutdowns and we have looked at the impact on agency programs. we have not actually, though, really come up with any estimate of the amounts used there and possible waste. we understand there may be other
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entities that have done that, however. we would be happy to look for that information. >> dr. reynolds, you co-authored an article in 2020 that stated strengthening congressional committees could also help the legislative branch push back against the president's use of budgetary power. what are ways congressional committees could serve as an effective check on the executive branch? dr. reynolds: i thank you. i think that there are all of the tools that are available to the congressional committees can be deployed in service of asserting congress's role in the separation of powers. so, hearings like this one, letters that can be sent, looking for additional information, part of what we are talking about today is the ability to make that process work better for congress, make it easier for you all to get information back.
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the last thing is boosting the staff on your committee, making sure you have the ability to higher subject matter experts, to compensate them well and keep them in those roles, in order to make sure that your committees have the expertise you need to understand the federal programs that you are trying to oversee. >> thank you. i appreciate the answers. i yield back. chairman yarmuth: i now recognize another gentleman from virginia, mr. good. >> thank you, mr. chairman. thank you to all of our guest witnesses. i appreciate the testimony you have provided. i share the concerns already mentioned by many colleagues about how the legislative
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(202) 748-8002 -- >> what he share and i echo his remarks without being redundant. i do have a question for mr. pallotta, in your testimony you noted that reforming the ica to return to a more equitable division of power between congress and the president would expend the appropriation of funds would allow prudent management to flourish. can you speak further on what recommendations you would have her reforming the ica? >> i think it is not so much focused on the ica. i think it is a return to regular order. it is having well written authorizations and standalone
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appropriations that really lay out what congress wants. there is this broad appropriations word, an unauthorized program that continues. that is at the heart of it is what congress needs to do. authorize programs clearly for what they want the executive to carry out and pass appropriations to fund those. >> you did an effective job in your testimony talking about how dysfunctional we are in the way we are handling our funding now and it is not sustainable what we are doing. i want to yell the balance of my time out of respect to the ranking member because he ran out of time and i know he will had that she had more questions. >> thank you for yielding. my question, you previously wrote an article about pandemic spending which stated congress must make sure the money is really going to protect jobs and keep workers safe.
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large corporations don't get loans -- that crony capitalism does not influence who receives assistance and that fraudsters do not rip off taxpayers, correct? >> yes. >> i understand you and your organization even publish newsletters called corrupted that describe instances of corruption, fraud, waste and abuse related to spending and other things during the pandemic? >> yes. >> when did you all begin publishing those articles? >> i don't remember. >> i think it was august 13. does that sound right? >> sure. >> do you know how often you all distributed these articles? >> the newsletter? >> yes. >> weekly. >> do you all still distribute these weekly newsletters about
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your oversight efforts? >> not that one in particular. the content in the corrupted newsletter is now spread between a couple of different products but we are certainly still doing investigations and publishing reports on any waste, fraud and abuse. >> when did you stop doing that weekly newsletter? >> it was a couple of months ago. >> january 14. does that sound right? >> sure. >> given your previous statement that congress must make sure money is really going to protect jobs and keep workers safe in your organization's stated commitment to oversee covid related spending coupled with the fact that president biden entered national -- president biden and congressional democrats added spending, why did you stop publishing these reports? >> it was a strategic decision behind the scenes to make sure
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we were using our resources well. we are still absolutely publishing that content. i think maybe you are suggesting we stop investigating covid fraud, and that is not the case. >> would you say this is not because there is a different occupant in the white house? >> absolutely not. earlier this week, our organization published a piece critical of the biden administration, particularly the revolving door issues that may be affecting some policymaking out of the white house. >> i think there is waste you all could look into, some waste i have been reading about and discovered in the last week, billionaires in florida received the $1400 stimulus checks. i think that is wasteful. wouldn't you? >> i would agree and i would say a lot of oversight over covid
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spending has been very difficult. inspectors general have mentioned that too partially because last year the office of management and budget undercut some reporting requirements that would have given the public and the inspectors general more detailed information. you mentioned -- particularly more information about how those various programs were reflecting in, or not reflecting increased jobs. part of that is, again, we are a small organization. we do not have unlimited resources. we also did create a tracker -- now i am forgetting the name, but it is someone our website, that tracks all covid spending. that tracker is the most comprehensive tracker we have. even more so than with the government has put together. it is important to us that the public is able to track this spending. particularly on unemployment, we
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don't have a lot of data about that. it is more difficult to do those types of investigations but i take your point, and it is important to us as an organization. we encourage you to keep an eye on our website. >> i did not mention unemployment insurance, i was talking about stimulus checks. i appreciate -- >> [indiscernible] >> the gentleman from virginia's time has expired. we now recognize the gentleman from texas. >> mr. chairman, thank you for this hearing. thank you for your earlier work. i remember when you introduced the -- and all of the democratic members signed onto it and it is commendable that you're holding this hearing in a different
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administration. we do know that the king of moving money around and ignoring the needs congress dictated certainly was the pastor ministration. -- the past administration. the greatest abuse was $391 million from -- that was -- [indiscernible]the president of ukraine -- [indiscernible] it is important that we look at this in a nonpartisan manner to constitutionally protect whatever duties happen to be. let me add additional -- which is the diminishing and not using and not helping support
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different agencies that dealt with civil rights. particularly the civil rights division of the doj. the last ministration was particularly prone to not wanting to have that kind of appropriation going on. this was not precisely appropriation, but was language attempting to get gun violence as a national health issue. thank goodness we have a new day. it could also be policy that may generate into congress' decision. i want to ask the question how diligent we should be under the constitution to ensure that some of the underbelly of the agencies, the sub agencies like the office of civil rights, that we can also delve into end figure -- into and figure out if there is a non-expenditure, a smothering of these agencies on
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been announced to congress who has expanded funding for them. why don't i start with the representative from the -- to answer that question. [indiscernible] >> absolutely. part of what we see which is in the power of the purse which has been presented in the last -- that we would continue to recommend having agencies not only have osb publish the apportionments so we have information specifically on those accounts in that real-time basis, but also having agencies report on their obligations with respect to shutdowns, reports on their expiring and canceled appropriations because that would give congress as well as other watchdogs the ability to
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look at what is occurring with the wide span of appropriations congress sent out. this is the type of information we believe would be healthy to congress and being able that in being able to conduct oversight. >> how important is it -- mr. dash indicated we need to do this -- i think that is where -- how important is it for congress to do diligence, or the vision or the right running of congress left all of these agencies that are not well-known that are doing lifesaving things, actions dealing with civil rights and civil liberties while protecting the lgbtq community, how important is it for congress to dig into how moneys are obstructed or not used? >> it is incredibly important.
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i can't expound on that, it is so critical in congress -- the executive branch spends it as congress intends it. to do that, to make sure that is happening, you need transparency to make sure -- to facilitate your oversight. >> i would add the religious community as well. protecting them. >> the only thing i would add is that part of it is -- part of why it is so important is because there can be divergence between what congress asks for and with the executive branch does from -- for reasons from nefarious to routine. you need good information to figure out all of those things. the potential here for gaffes is inevitable. that is why it is so important to get the information you need to make good decisions. >> thank you very much. i think by time has ended. i yield back. >> thank you.
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i now recognize the gentleman from wisconsin. >> just a general question, could anybody give me a suggestion as to how we can better improve identifying areas that we feel are wasteful? -- the biggest problem here, reduce overall spending? >> i can jump in. this might be surprising, but i would consider raising staff pay. i think one of the reasons why congress is suffering is because congressional staff, there's
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brain drain. there is such high turnover you don't have the expertise your staff needs to be doing these programs effectively. that would be my suggestion. >> go ahead. >> if i may say we certainly have the work we do annually on the duplication overlaps and bifurcations as well as just generally all of our work looking at fraud, waste and abuse. just a number of other areas. we certainly would urge you to work with -- to help identify those. >> nobody could argue that right now congress is not overspending. obviously things have gotten worse since we got rid of the sequester. could you give a crack at whether that was a mistake or not?
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>> we certainly did some work as well as looking at sequestration and its effects. one of the things we did find was because people -- across-the-board cut, it is difficult then for agencies to be able to adjust to it and react to it because they are not able to identify or prioritize what congress may want them to do as well as agency programs. in that sense, while it may be effective in cutting spending, it does happen -- have an across-the-board impact which makes it difficult to prioritize. >> anyone else want to take a crack at that? i am not sure i buy it. >> i could take a crack at how to spend less money. the -- control act, from my perspective, it distance into visor's and makes it illegal to
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-- money. if you get $100 billion and do the program for $70 million, you put a pause on it and of her those funds to make it a better run program and you have $30 million left over, you have to spend those funds by the end of the period of availability. unless you send it up, and those never get past. there is no incentive to do a program, to make it better, to do it cheaper because that money has to be spent by the end of the year. in the old days if you did it and got it done and had money left over, so long as you accomplish the purposes of the program, it could lapse. whenever you can try to say -- save money, the -- makes it illegal. so there is no incentive saving money on federal programs. >> why won't we reinstate it? >> that's with the ita does right now. one tool could be if you can run
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a program for less money, those funds should re-appropriate. i think the ica is written -- as written is a terrible law. >> in a sense, the ica does permit you to -- past provisions proposed by the administration. we do believe that has the opportunity for the eye -- for the branch to identify those situations. >> give it back to the chairman. >> thank you. i know yield myself 10 minutes for questioning. i will give it up to the gentle
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and from north carolina. >> thank you. since we are knocking to have another round come i want to just suggest a question that our witnesses could explore for the record. i think we must raise the -- i don't know if mr. mcclintock is still on the call, is he? he raised a question suggesting that congressional projects or earmarks were somehow constitutionally infirm, constitutionally questionable. i just think we have to get a response on that from our witnesses for the record. my view has always been the constitutional argument ran in the other direction. that there was something very questionable about the arbitrary denial of the power of the purse. i don't imagine that earmarking is constitutionally required, but i can't imagine it is constitutionally denied. congress appropriates and the
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executive branch spends well, an earmark, or a congressionally erected appropriation is an appropriation, just a more specific kind of appropriation. the executive agencies of course still executes that project. i just think we need to clear that up because we are embarking on this and i view it as a reclaiming of the power of the purse, and therefore a very positive -- and i am glad both parties in the house have agreed. if we could ask our witnesses to submit some kind of commentary on that for the record, that would be very useful. >> we would be happy to do that. reclaiming my time, i have been informed by counsel in relation to the last exchange with -- that the control has
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specifically allows for referrals for -- rater efficiency of operation. there is an opportunity to do that under current law. i want to respond to a couple of things because one of them just doesn't pass the bs test. that is the claim the ranking member made and mr. panetta made also that the refusal to spend $1.4 billion on -- somehow ways is exacerbated or has caused the current situation at the border. the notion that in 100 days that money could have been spent to anyway affect the flow of people trying to enter the country is just absurd. i am sorry. i am not defending with the administration does, the -- will
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have a response to that in a short period of time as to the legality of what he did, but the idea that is somehow connected to the situation with the border is ridiculous. i do want to respond also to mr. --, when you compare what a state government's fiscal constraints are, or a local government or business or household, as many do, it is not about comparison to the federal government. the federal government -- all those others corporations they cannot create powers. united states government can and does, we do it every day. the idea that somehow the -- is
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over -- overpowering future generations, we have been accumulating debt in this country for 230 years. not one person is ever going to ask to pay up. when the national debt reached $1 billion under abraham lincoln, i am sure a lot of people were saying that same thing. $1 trillion under ronald reagan. there were people saying the same thing, i was around. the fact is that what many people refer to as debt is an accounting device. it represents all of the money that the federal government has injected into this country over its history, minus taxes. when we talk about debt as a percentage of gdp, many economists are saying that is the wrong measure. it doesn't mean anything. i think you will get agreement from that with the federal
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reserve chairman and many others. japan's debt to gdp ratio is 240%. japan has very low-interest rates, 0% interest rate, that is what they pay on their securities. they have very little inflation. their currency is stable. we throw around all of these things that we have been living with for the past 50 or 60 years, this notion that don't reflect the way the federal money supply works. and how the federal debt -- we could have a hearing on that at some time and we actually intend to do that. i do have a question for --, in your testimony recommended that congress require omb
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apportionments appropriations -- [indiscernible] requesting relevant apportionment documents. can you explain why greater transparency would be better for gao, congress and the public? >> in order to have the information to provide you in the congress with timely decisions, we need to have timely access to information. having those apportionments available publicly means that as they are being published, as they are being carried out we could have access to that information. we could be looking at programs as things are coming to our attention, or with respect to any other work we are doing. it gives us the opportunity to give you more timely decisions in other work that we do. >> you would have a much easier
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time of flagging potential problems, potential violations of the law and we would have an easier time doing oversight of the money we appropriate? >> absolutely. if we looked at apportionment and see something anomalous, we can ask questions right away. we can compare it to prior years. that is one of the key things we can do in looking at these issues, look at the prior rate of obligation. see how the program was working in prior years. having that information up front is going to help us identify potential problems. >> thank you. mr. --, congress doesn't to a very good job of specifying what we want when we take money. [indiscernible] i don't have any idea how the
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language -- is. i do not know whether it is the new law, a replacement, you may know. i'm not trying to say that as justification for anything, it is clearly true that we do not always write laws in the best way. we do try to add language that clarifies some of those details, so i think that your advice to congress to be as clear as we can be about having -- is emblematic of -- [indiscernible] i have no other questions. i'm going to thank the witnesses
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for their testimony, their responses, the members for their questions and i reiterate to the ranking member, and every other member, that the -- budget committee i will be the budget -- [indiscernible] we have equipped the hearing room so we can hold hearings in a much better way. [indiscernible] if there is no further >> c-span is your unfiltered view of government, and are funded by companies like this one, broadband. ♪


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