House Passes Key Power of the Purse Provisions to Protect and Strengthen our Democracy

We applaud the House, Chairman Quigley, Chairwoman DeLauro, and Speaker Pelosi for the power of the purse provisions that strengthen and protect our democracy, safeguard a fundamental Congressional power, and were passed as part of the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. In particular, we appreciate the inclusion of sections 204, 747, 748, and 749 of the FSGG bill. Had these provisions been in place in 2019, President Trump’s illegal withholding of funds to Ukraine, over which he was impeached, would have been quickly revealed.

We urge Chairman Van Hollen and Chairman Leahy to adopt this approach in the Senate. These provisions would have a similar effect to those in the Congressional Power of the Purse Act, which they introduced in the last Congress and is also included in the Protecting Our Democracy Act.

While it is critically important to have this language in appropriations bills, Congress should make these laws permanent by passing the Protecting Our Democracy Act and the Congressional Power of the Purse Act.

The cross-ideological Power of the Purse coalition has called for the increased apportionment transparency and earlier this year called for the inclusion of these provisions in the FSGG appropriations bill.

“Increasing transparency around the day-by-day decisions OMB is making to fund agencies helps the Congress and the American people better understand how our government actually works.  These provisions are an important first step, but Congress and the President must move forward with permanent legislation“ Justin Florence, Legal Director, Protect Democracy and former Associate White House Counsel.

“We’re grateful that House leaders prioritized provisions in the appropriations bill that will strengthen Congress’s power when it comes to federal spending and increase accountability over government spending. I hope the Senate will soon follow suit, and I urge Congress to prioritize making these common-sense provisions law by passing the Protect Our Democracy Act and the Congressional Power of the Purse Act.” Liz Hempowicz, Policy Director at the Project On Government Oversight

Explanation of FSGG provisions

Each year Congress passes and the President signs legislation that funds the federal government — but it is the OMB that actually decides when agencies actually get the money and how much they can spend at a time. OMB makes thousands of these so-called “apportionments” of federal funds each year that are generally kept secret from the public, from Congress, and even from the Government Accountability Office unless they are requested for oversight or investigations.

By law, the OMB already creates and keeps records of these apportionments providing agencies with authority to spend money. The important transparency provisions included in the House-passed appropriations bill would simply require that this basic information be made public, so that Congress, the GAO, and the people can see how our funds are being used. These transparency measures would also help ensure that OMB cannot undermine the directions Congress has given, through the appropriations law, as to how federal funds should be spent.

The provisions would:

  • Require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to make public the legally binding apportionment decisions that control when and how much of our tax dollars are made available to agencies to be spent.

  • Ensure OMB makes funds available to agencies with enough time so they can be spent in accordance with the law and Congress’s intent.

  • Call on the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to ensure compliance with these transparency measures and require agencies to be responsive to the GAO’s requests for information.

  • Require agencies to notify Congress if OMB’s apportionment decisions would prevent those agencies from spending the funds Congress has appropriated under the law.