WASHINGTON — On Thursday Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, introduced the Bolster Accountability to Drive Government Efficiency and Reform Washington Act, a government reform package that includes 19 bills that have already been approved by voice vote or unanimous roll call vote in his committee this Congress.
The bill includes reforms to strengthen inspectors general, curb improper payments and improve anti-fraud controls, expedite the disposal of unneeded federal property, improve government transparency, rein in the use of federal paid administrative leave, and enhance whistleblower protections.
Johnson had this to say regarding the BADGER Washington Act:
“I want to ensure that all the important work this committee has done to reduce wasteful spending and to make the federal government more efficient and effective for the American people does not fall by the wayside. We may disagree on the proper size of the federal government, but we all agree that what government we have must be more efficient, effective and accountable,” said Johnson. “Going back to the great oversight and legislative work that Senator Tom Carper and former Senator Tom Coburn did on this committee last congress, the members of our committee have been working for years to try to pass some of these reforms, only to be blocked by the undisclosed concerns of one or two dissenters. It’s time these bipartisan, commonsense proposals get a public discussion and a vote. I am confident that if that happens, we can get these reforms to the president’s desk. It’s time to badger Washington into real reforms that work for the American people.”
The committee has approved 82 pieces of legislation on a bipartisan basis. Twenty-six of those have become law, and another seven have passed the Senate. However, several of the remaining commonsense reforms will likely not reach unanimous approval from the full Senate because they have been objected to — often in secret and without explanation — by one or two members.
At a hearing on April 27 examining waste and duplication within the federal government, Johnson noted that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has committed to full Senate consideration of the bill. Coburn, a physician who retired from the Senate last year after a career distinguished by his focus on eliminating waste, fraud and abuse, testified at the hearing. He pointed out that many of the reforms in the package are ones that he championed with Carper when he was ranking member of the committee. Coburn encouraged the members of the committee to “carry forward the tradition of bipartisanship and work to get the bills approved by the committee across the finish line this year.”
BADGER Washington Act highlights:
Bipartisan: Combines 19 bills that were voice-voted or unanimously roll-call-voted out of HSGAC in the 114th Congress. Each HSGAC member has sponsored or cosponsored at least one of the bills.
Unfinished business: Several bills have been introduced in multiple years but have never gotten over the finish line because they could not get unanimous consent, such as real property reform (since 2012), and Taxpayers Right to Know (since 2011).
GAO recommendations: Many, if not most, of these bills came from Government Accountability Office recommendations. Some examples include fraud controls and reduction of improper payments, Taxpayer Right to Know, and software license reform.
Potential for ballooning effect: Like Coburn’s GAO duplication amendment, these reforms could have a ballooning effect on the federal government’s ability to curb wasteful spending and provide efficient programs years into the future by:
- Cutting wasteful spending: Reducing improper payments, preventing wasteful bonuses, reforming former presidents’ pay, and prohibiting federally funded oil paintings.
- Promoting efficiency: Requiring the disposition of costly, underutilized and unnecessary federal properties and improving real property management, preventing agencies from purchasing unneeded software licenses, freeing up inspector general resources, and requiring more efficient personnel investigations and use of administrative leave.
- Strengthening watchdogs: Empowering inspectors general to be more effective independent watchdogs, which could save millions. For every dollar invested in inspectors general, they return $21 in savings to the American taxpayer.
Holds government accountable: Strengthens whistleblower protections and penalties — including for Department of Veterans Affairs employees who blow the whistle on corruption and life-threatening practices that endanger veterans — and improves training for supervisors, and reauthorizes the Office of Special Counsel to ensure it has the authority necessary to protect federal whistleblowers.
Bipartisan bills included in the BADGER Washington Act:
TITLE I—EFFICIENCY, TRANSPARENCY, AND OTHER REFORMS
Subtitle A—Federal Real Property Sale and Management
- S. 2375 (Johnson, Warner, Blunt, Portman, Lankford). Creates a council to reduce the wasteful size of the federal inventory. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
- S. 2509 (Carper, Portman, Johnson, King, Heitkamp, Lankford). Reduces wasteful spending by improving federal real property management. Passed HSGAC by voice vote. First introduced in 2012.
Subtitle B—Taxpayers Right to Know Act
- S. 282 (Lankford, McCaskill, Johnson, Ayotte, Heitkamp, Enzi, McCain, Portman, Peters, Paul, Fischer). Increases transparency by requiring the Office of Management and Budget to create a federal program inventory. Passed HSGAC by voice vote. First introduced in 2011.
Subtitle C—Stopping Improper Payments to Deceased People
- S. 1073 (Carper, Johnson, Warner, Coats, Booker, McCaskill, Tillis, Baldwin). Reduces improper payments by expanding agency access to the full Death Master File. Passed HSGAC by voice vote. First introduced in 2014.
Subtitle D—Fraud Reduction and Data Analytics
- S. 2133 (Carper, Tillis, McCaskill, Johnson, Baldwin, Ayotte). Reduces wasteful spending by implementing GAO recommendations to strengthen federal anti-fraud financial controls. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle E—Duplication Reduction and Agency Coordination
- S. 2834 (Carper, Johnson, Baldwin, Booker, Peters). Makes improvements to ensure agencies are coordinating and addressing duplicative programs. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle F—Administrative Leave Reform
- S. 2450 (Tester, Grassley, Johnson, Carper, Lankford, McCaskill). Reduces government abuse of administrative leave. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle G—Enhancements for Inspectors General
- S. 579 (Grassley, McCaskill, Johnson, Baldwin, Ernst, Cornyn, Mikulski, Collins, Carper, Ayotte, Kirk, Lankford, Fischer, Wyden, Enzi, Manchin, Peters, Portman, Isakson, Blunt). Strengthens inspector general independence, access, and efficiencies. Passed HSGAC by voice vote. Parts of this bill first introduced as early as 2010.
- S. 2128 (Sasse, McCaskill). Will reduce federal duplication and waste by gathering a list of inspector general mandated reporting with recommendations for reductions. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle H—Enhancements for the Government Accountability Office
- S. 2964 (Johnson, Carper). Repeals or modifies 10 congressionally mandated reports the GAO believes are outdated and no longer useful to save money and free up GAO’s resources. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
- S. 2849 (Sasse, Tester, Ayotte, Baldwin, Capito, Carper, Enzi, Ernst, Flake, Johnson, Lankford, Lee, McCain, McCaskill, Perdue, Peters, Schatz, Tillis). Gives the government’s independent auditor access to the National Directory of New Hires so it can better identify federal improper payments and deter fraud. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle I—Stopping Wasteful Federal Bonuses
- S. 742 (Ayotte, McCaskill, Fischer). Increases accountability and reduces waste by limiting bonuses paid to federal employees who have engaged in misconduct. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle J—Eliminating Government-Funded Oil Paintings
- S. 310 (Cassidy, Fischer, Roberts, Daines, Johnson). Reduces wasteful government spending by banning the use of federal funds for portraits. Passed HSGAC by voice vote. First introduced in 2013.
Subtitle K—Presidential Allowance Modernization
- S. 1411 (Ernst, Kirk, Rubio). Modernizes federal pay for former presidents and their widows. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle L—Making Electronic Government Accountable
- S. 2340 (Cassidy, Peters). Reduces duplication by implementing GAO recommendations to manage existing agency software licenses effectively. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle M—Construction Consensus Procurement Improvement
- S. 1526 (Portman, Hirono, Ayotte, Shaheen). Reforms for construction contracts. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
TITLE II—ACCOUNTABILITY ENHANCEMENTS
Subtitle A — Expanded Whistleblower Protections for Employees
- S. 2127 (Johnson, Ayotte, Kirk, Ernst). Increases accountability and transparency through more stringent whistleblower reforms, and reducing unauthorized access to medical files. Passed HSGAC by roll call vote 9-0.
Subtitle B—Enhanced Whistleblower Protection for Contractor and Grantee Employees
- S. 795 (McCaskill, Johnson). Enhances whistleblower protections for contractor and grantee employees. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
Subtitle C—The Office of Special Counsel Reauthorization
- S. 2968 (Johnson, Grassley). Reauthorizes the Office of Special Counsel, strengthens its ability to access agency documents, and provides an independent process for its own employees to make disclosures. Passed HSGAC by voice vote.
The bill text can be found here.