U.S. House passes historic open government bill, sending it on to the White House

us-capitol-dome-sun

This afternoon, the United States House of Representatives passed the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act (DATA) of 2013, voting to send S.994, the bill that enjoyed unanimous support in the U.S. Senate earlier this month, on to the president’s desk.

The DATA Act is the most significant open government legislation enacted by Congress in generations, going back to the Freedom of Information Act in 1966. An administration official at the White House Office of Management and Budget confirmed that President Barack Obama will sign the bill into law.

The DATA Act establishes financial open data standards for agencies in the federal government, requires compliance with those standards, and that the data will then be published online.  The bipartisan bill was sponsored in the Senate by Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA), and in the House by Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD).

Representative Issa, who first introduced the transparency legislation in 2011, spoke about the bill on the House floor this afternoon and tweeted out a long list of beneficial outcomes his office expects to result from its passage.

The Senators who drafted and co-sponsored the version of the bill that the House passed today quickly hailed its passage.

“In the digital age, we should be able to search online to see how every grant, contract and disbursement is spent in a more connected and transparent way through the federal government,” said Senator Warner, in a statement. “Independent watchdogs and transparency advocates have endorsed the DATA Act’s move toward greater transparency and open data. Our taxpayers deserve to see clear, accessible information about government spending, and this accountability will highlight and help us eliminate waste and fraud.”

“During a time of record $17 trillion debt, our bipartisan bill will help identify and eliminate waste by better tracking federal spending,” said Senator Portman, in a statement. “I’m pleased that our bill to empower taxpayers to see how their money is spent and improve federal financial transparency has unanimously passed both chambers of Congress and is now headed to the President’s desk for signature.”

“The DATA Act is a transformational piece of legislation that has the potential to permanently transform how the Federal government operates,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, in a statement. “For the first time ever, the American people will have open, standardized access to how the federal government spends their money. Washington has an abundance of information that is often bogged down by federal bureaucracy and is inaccessible to our nation’s innovators, developers and citizens. The standardization and publication of federal spending information in an open format will empower innovative citizens to tackle many of our nation’s challenges on their own. Government of the people, by the people, and for the people should be open to the people.”

The DATA Act earned support from a broad coalition of open government advocates and industry groups. Its passage in Congress was hailed today by open government advocates and trade groups alike.

“The central idea behind the Digital Accountability and Transparency Act is simple: disclose to the public what the federal government spends,” “>said Daniel Schuman, policy council for the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

“The means necessary to accomplish this purpose—increased agency reporting, the use of modern technology, implementation of government-wide standards, regular quality assurance on the data—will require government to systematically address how it stovepipes federal spending information. This is no small task, and one that is long overdue. The effort to reform transparency around federal spending arose in large part because members of both political parties concluded that their ability to govern effectively depends on making sure federal spending data is comprehensive, accessible, reliable, and timely. Currently, it is not. The leaders of the reform efforts in the Senate are Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tom Carper (D-DE), and Tom Coburn (R-OK), and the leaders in the House are Representatives Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Elijah Cummings (D-MD), although they are joined by many others. We welcome and applaud the House of Representative’s passage of the DATA Act. It is a remarkable bill that, if properly implemented, will empower elected officials and everyday citizens alike to follow how the federal government spends money.”

“Sunlight has been advocating for the DATA Act for some time, and are thrilled to see it emerge from Congress,” said Matt Rumsey, a policy analyst at the Sunlight Foundation. “As I wrote while describing the history of the bill after it passed through the Senate, ‘Congress has taken a big step by passing the DATA Act. The challenge now will be ensuring that it is implemented effectively.’ We hope that the President swiftly signs the bill and we look forward to working with his administration to shed more light on federal spending.

“With this legislation, big data is finally coming of age in the federal government,” said Daniel Castro, Director of the Center for Data Innovation, in a statement. “The DATA Act promises to usher in a new era of data-driven transparency, accountability, and innovation in federal financial information. This is a big win for taxpayers, innovators, and journalists.”

“After three years of debate and negotiation over the DATA Act, Congress has issued a clear and unified mandate for open, reliable federal spending data,” said Hudson Hollister, the Executive Director of the Data Transparency Coalition. Hollister helped to draft the first version of the DATA Act in 2011, when he was on Representative Issa’s staff. “Our Coalition now calls on President Obama to put his open data policies into action by signing the DATA Act and committing his Office of Management and Budget to pursue robust data standards throughout federal financial, budget, grant, and contract reporting.”

“The Administration shares Senator Warner’s commitment to government transparency and accountability, and appreciates his leadership in Congress on this issue,” said Steve Posner, spokesman for the White House Office of Management and Budget. “The Administration supports the objectives of the DATA Act and looks forward to working with Congress on implementing the new data standards and reporting requirements within the realities of the current constrained budget environment and agency financial systems.”

Update: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) signed the DATA Act on April 30, before sending it on to President Obama’s desk.

Digital Communications Director

“From publishing legislative data in XML to live-streaming hearings and floor debates, our majority has introduced a number of innovations to make the legislative process more open and accessible,” he said, in a statement touting open government progress in the House. “With the DATA Act, which I signed today, we’re bringing this spirit of transparency to the rest of the federal government.  For years, we’ve been able to track the status of our packages, but to this day there is no one website where you can see how all of your tax dollars are being spent.  Once the president signs this bill, that will start to change.  There is always more to be done when it comes to opening government and putting power back in the hands of the people, and the House will be there to lead the way.” 

UPDATE: On May 9th, 2014, President Barack Obama signed The DATA Act into law.

Statement by Press Secretary Jay Carney:

On Friday, May 9, 2014, the President signed into law:

S. 994, the “Digital Accountability and Transparency Act of 2014″ or the “DATA Act,” which amends the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006 to make publicly available specific classes of Federal agency spending data, with more specificity and at a deeper level than is currently reported; require agencies to report this data on USASpending.gov; create Government-wide standards for financial data; apply to all agencies various accounting approaches developed by the Recovery Act’s Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board; and streamline agency reporting requirements.

Rep. Darrell Issa issued the following statement in response:

“The enactment of the DATA Act marks a transformation in government transparency by shedding light on runaway federal spending,” said Chairman Issa. “The reforms of this bipartisan legislation not only move the federal bureaucracy into the digital era, but they improve accountability to taxpayers and provide tools to allow lawmakers and citizen watchdogs to root out waste and abuse. Government-wide structured data requirements may sound like technical jargon, but the real impact of this legislation on our lives will be more open, more effective government.”

One thought on “U.S. House passes historic open government bill, sending it on to the White House

  1. Pingback: What responsibilities does Facebook have to share great journalism? | digiphile

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s