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Alexander, Corker, Blackburn File Legislation to Allow Songwriters to Receive Fair Market Compensation

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.; March 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON, March 4, 2015 – U.S. Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), along with U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Doug Collins (R-Ga.) and others, today introduced legislation that would allow songwriters to receive compensation based on the fair market value of their songs.

The Songwriter Equity Act would amend federal law to allow songwriters to receive market-based compensation and would remove government price controls. Hatch is a songwriter himself and a senior member of the Judiciary Committee that would consider the legislation. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) is also a cosponsor in the Senate. Collins serves as the Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property. In addition to Blackburn and Collins, U.S. Reps.Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), Jim Cooper (D-Tenn.), Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) and Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) are also cosponsors in the House.

Alexander said: “Italy has its art, Egypt has its pyramids, Napa Valley has its wines and Nashville has its songwriters. Songwriters are the lifeblood of Music City, and their paychecks ought to be based on the fair market value of their songs – so that when they write a hit heard around the world, you can see it in their billfolds. My hope is that in this new Congress, we will pass this legislation to help give our nation’s songwriters the fair pay they have earned.”

Corker said: “Music showcases the incredible talent and vision of Tennesseans – its songwriters, musicians, and small and large businesses – across the country and around the world. Unfortunately, it’s easy for some to forget the countless people who bring to life the music we enjoy each day. We turn the knob, hit the button, click the mouse, and our favorite songs are there. As technology advances, it’s important that we remember where the music begins and modernize the way songwriters are compensated for their work.”

Hatch said: “The music business is among the toughest and most competitive industries, and our songwriters and composers should not have to accept below-market rates for their work. Ensuring that they are able to receive the fair market value for their songs is the right thing to do.”

Blackburn said: “Behind every great song is a great songwriter who deserves to be fairly compensated for their creative works. I am happy to once again join my House and Senate colleagues in this bipartisan effort to ensure fairness for our songwriters.”

Collins said: “In my home state of Georgia alone, there are close to 50,000 songwriters who have dedicated their lives to a talent and a calling that, in my view, God gave them. It is critical to ensure that songwriters – the engines that drive the music industry – are compensated fairly for their work. Copyright laws were never intended to create barriers to creativity that forces songwriters to sell their intellectual property at below-market rates. Congress should write laws that not only promote creation and pay creators, but also remain relevant even in times of rapid technological change. The Songwriter Equity Act is a vital step toward a music licensing system built on free market principles and fair compensation to creators. ”

The legislation would allow songwriters to receive market-based compensation and remove government price controls in two ways:

  • First, it would direct the Copyright Royalty Board to set compensation according to the fair market value when songs are sold, such as through music downloads and CD purchases, replacing the current below-market standard.
  • Second, it would remove a provision of law that narrows the scope of evidence the federal rate court may examine when asked to set songwriter compensation for when their song is played, such as in a restaurant or at a concert.

Songwriter compensation is dictated by the federal government. The rate of compensation that is set by the Copyright Royalty Board has increased only 7 cents over 100 years, and is currently 9.1 cents per song. The so-called “federal rate court” determines compensation rates for public performances, occasionally requiring songwriters to engage in complex litigation to be paid reasonable fees for their work.

Cooper, Cohen Split on Israeli PM’s Congressional Address

Tennessee’s only two Democratic legislators in Washington have taken divergent positions on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pending speech to Congress Tuesday.

Memphis Rep. Steve Cohen, a Jewish American and self-described “supporter of the state of Israel,” has announced his intention to boycott because he believes “the speech is political theater” for Netanyahu’s re-election efforts.

Cohen also took umbrage with Speaker of the House John Boehner’s invitation to the Israeli leader in light of the Obama administration’s ongoing negotiations in the Middle East. He accused House Republicans of “giving a foreign leader the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives as a forum to present a counterargument to the foreign policy peace efforts” of President Barack Obama.

“My lack of attendance does not mean I will not be aware of the content of the speech nor does it mean I won’t follow the commentary both pro and con but I will not be part of the spectacle,” Cohen said in a release.

U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, on the other hand, plans to attend, as he said he always does when a foreign leader addresses Congress. Cooper’s also planning to bring along the executive director of the Jewish Federation of Nashville to the speech as his guest.

According to a media advisory e-mailed late Monday, House Democrats, led by Cohen, will make a response to Netanyahu’s speech early Tuesday afternoon.

Dozens of Democrats from both chambers of Congress — the count has fluctuated over the past month from 54 members of congress to 34  — have announced that they will not attend Netanyahu’s speech.

Cooper: Treasury Report Shows U.S. Unfunded Liabilities at $64.4T, up $2.8T from 2013

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 27, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) highlighted this week’s release of the U.S. Treasury Department’s annual Financial Report of the United States, indicating $64.4 trillion in total unfunded liabilities, an increase of $2.8 trillion over 2013.

The Financial Report is the only annual government financial statement published in public-company format, which accounts for unfunded liabilities such as Social Security and Medicare.

Unfunded liabilities rose at a rate of nearly $8 billion per day last year.

“These are the real numbers, and they are terrible. Washington is still refusing to keep up with the national credit card,” Cooper said. “Most small businesses have better accounting standards than the federal government. Folks who read or hear this should tell their elected representatives or favorite trade associations to wake up, smell the coffee and tell the truth about America.”

Cooper has been a longtime advocate of the federal government using accrual (or “real”) accounting instead of the cash accounting method it currently uses, which hides the true cost of our national debt.

Cooper is a longtime advocate for a balanced, bipartisan debt reduction plan. In 2006, he published a foreword to the 2005 Financial Report of the United States. Six years later, Cooper and Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH) introduced a bipartisan budget based on the proposal from the Simpson-Bowles National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform. The Cooper-LaTourette budget would have reduced the debt by more than $4 trillion over the following decade.

Cohen, Cooper Critical of General Assembly’s Rejection of Insure TN

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 4, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding the Tennessee State Senate Health & Welfare Committee, by a vote of 4 to 7, effectively killing Governor Haslam’s “Insure Tennessee” plan to expand Medicaid in Tennessee:

“Foolish, foolish, foolish. Sad, sad, sad. Sick, sick, sick.”

“This vote is foolish because it leaves $1 billion in federal funds each year on the table that could have helped keep hospitals open, boosted our economy, and improved our citizens’ health.”

“This vote is sad because it shows inhumanity and disdain for Tennessee’s sick and our poorest citizens in need of health care.”

“And it is sick because some of those Tennesseans will die as a result of this decision. Those who voted ‘no’ today made a foolish, sad, sick and outright wrong decision.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-5) today issued the following statement:

“Tennesseans will die and hospitals will close as a result of our cruel state legislature. Rarely in state history have we seen such a devastating lack of leadership.”

Blackburn, Cohen, Cooper, DesJarlais Co-sponsor Bill to End Use of Ticket-purchasing Bots

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. 07; February 4, 2015:

U.S. Representatives Marsha Blackburn (TN-07), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Scott DesJarlais (TN-04), and Jim Cooper (TN-05) today introduced H.R. 708, the Better Online Ticket Sales (BOTS) Act.

H.R. 708 would make the use of bots to circumvent security measures employed by ticketing sites an “unfair and deceptive practice” under the Federal Trade Commission Act, and a crime under Title 18 of the U.S. Code. It would also create a private right of action whereby parties harmed by bots can sue in federal court to recover damages.

“I am pleased to be working on a bi-partisan basis with the Tennessee delegation on this important legislation,” Rep. Blackburn said. “Scalpers have been taking advantage of computer hacking software (BOTS) to circumvent restrictions put in place by on-line ticketing agents for years. They purchase tickets in mass quantities and sell them at a considerably marked up rate, which hurts fans of live entertainment who get priced out of the market. The Live Entertainment industry goes to great lengths to build relationships with its fans and ensure that they will access to shows. The BOTS Act will allow FTC enforcement, criminal sanctions, and a private right of action to be brought against on-line scalpers. It is time to level the on-line ticket playing field for fans of live entertainment.”

“With many fans already finding ticket prices for their favorite artists and events too high, it is disappointing that scalpers would seek to extract even more money out of consumers by using unfair ticket-purchasing and reselling practices,” said Rep. Cohen. “The BOTS Act would help end these anti-consumer tactics and clarify that using computer programs to snap up all available tickets to resell at a much higher price is, in fact, illegal under the Federal Trade Commission Act.”

“I am proud to have cosponsored this commonsense legislation that cracks down on deceptive ticket scalpers,” Rep. DesJarlais said. “For too long, scam artists have used computer hacking software to drastically increase the cost of attending an event. This bill protects American consumers by making the use of BOTS illegal.”

“Computer programs shouldn’t be allowed to cheat people out of fair ticket prices and great entertainment,” Rep. Cooper said.

Organizations supporting this bipartisan legislation include The Recording Academy, Live Nation Entertainment, as well as the Tennessee Sports and Entertainment Industry Coalition.

Daryl Friedman, Chief Advocacy & Industry Relations Officer of The Recording Academy praised the legislation saying: “The relationship that forms when an artist connects to a fan through his or her music is at the core of what makes music special. Artists try to keep their tickets affordable for their fans, but scalpers move in and drive up the price by using automated ticket ‘bots’ to make it harder for fans to buy tickets to see their favorite artist perform live. On behalf of The Recording Academy, I want to thank Congressman Marsha Blackburn, along with Reps. Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, and Scott DesJarlais, for introducing the ‘BOTS Act’ so that artists will be able to offer concert tickets to fans in the manner that they want, ensuring that the special connection between music lovers and music makers continues.”

Cooper Congratulates Nashville Attorney on Nomination for Federal Judgeship

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 4, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) on Wednesday praised the news that President Obama has nominated a celebrated Nashville attorney for a federal judgeship in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee.

“Out of an outstanding field of candidates, President Obama is nominating a first-rate local attorney and community leader,” Cooper said. “Waverly Crenshaw will make a fine federal judge. I just hope the Senate confirms him quickly because he is needed on the bench now.”

Crenshaw proudly calls himself “a product of the desegregated Nashville public school system.” A graduate of McGavock Comprehensive High School, Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Law School, Crenshaw joined Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis in 1990, becoming the firm’s first African-American attorney. He made partner, started an expansive mentoring program and served on the firm’s Diversity Committee.

Crenshaw has handled cases for clients in multiple industries, including health care, retail, manufacturing, transportation, communications, hospitality, education, public utilities and more.

TN Congressional Delegation Responses to Obama Budget Proposal

On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama submitted a nearly $4 trillion budget to Congress, calling for an end to the across-the-board cuts in federal spending brought about by the sequestration agreed to by Congress in 2011.

Instead, Obama suggested a 7 percent budget increase over the agreed-upon sequester levels for domestic and defense spending.

“I’m not going to accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward. It would be bad for our security and bad for our growth,” Obama said in a speech at the Department of Homeland Security offices Monday.

The U.S. national debt exceeded $18 trillion for the first time in mid-December 2014, just about 14 months after it exceeded $17 trillion in mid-October 2013.

Republican members of Congress have indicated the budget proposal is “dead on arrival.”

Responses from Tennessee’s congressional delegation to the president’s proposed budget follow:

Press release from U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2015 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2016:

“We need to address Washington’s spending problem and fix the federal government’s $18 trillion debt, and the way to do it is by reducing the growth of out-of-control entitlement spending. I plan to work with our Republican majority – and, I hope, the president – to make tough choices so we can pass a real plan to fix the debt while supporting other priorities like national defense and national labs and medical research.”

Alexander noted that mandatory spending – which includes out-of-control entitlement spending that is driving the growth in the federal debt – makes up about 60 percent of overall federal spending each year. Discretionary spending – the part of the budget that is already subject to spending caps under the Budget Control Act of 2011 and the Bipartisan Budget Act – makes up about 34 percent of federal spending each year and funds national defense, national labs, national parks and other federal priorities.

Press release from U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), a member of the Senate Budget Committee, released the following statement today regarding President Barack Obama’s fiscal year 2016 budget proposal.

“Our inability to get our nation’s fiscal house in order continues to be one of the most critical national security threats our country faces. The president’s budget makes little effort to solve that problem and is not a serious proposal,” said Corker. “The spending limits put in place in 2011 have generated the only real fiscal progress our nation has made in decades, yet the president wants to not only break the promise we all made to the American people, but also revert back to the bad habits that created our massive deficits in the first place. I hope Congress will show courage and finally address the largest drivers of our deficits so we can generate economic growth and create more opportunities for Tennesseans.”

Corker, also a member of the Senate Banking Committee, commented on the president’s renewed commitment to work with Congress to pass comprehensive housing finance reform.

“On the other hand, I am pleased the administration has renewed its commitment to working with Congress to pass comprehensive legislation to wind down Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac,” said Corker. “The biggest issue this year for the Senate Banking Committee, and the last major unfinished business from the 2008 financial crisis, is finally addressing this tremendous taxpayer liability and ending the failed model of private gains and public losses.”

The president’s budget says bipartisan housing finance legislation passed last year by the Senate Banking Committee was a “meaningful step” in the right direction. The bill, the Housing Finance Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act of 2014 (S.1217), passed the committee in May 2014 by a vote of 13 to 9 and was first introduced by Corker and Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) in June 2013.

Press release from U.S. Rep. John Duncan, Jr., R-Tenn. 02; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr. released the following statement Monday in response to President Obama’s 2016 budget:

This budget would result in a nearly half-trillion dollar deficit next year alone, and our deficits and interest payments on the National debt would continue to go way up every year.

The most wasteful, least efficient way to spend money is to turn it over to the federal government.  The best way to create more good jobs and keep the cost-of-living low is to decrease federal spending and leave more money in the hands of American families.

I strongly support tax cuts for the middle class.  The president claims he is trying to help the middle class, but during his years in office, the gap between the wealthy and the middle class has grown faster than ever, primarily because of big government policies that help only big federal contractors and the federal bureaucracy.

Like all presidential budgets, it will undergo significant changes.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischman, R-Tenn. 03; February 2, 2015:

WASHINGTON− Rep. Chuck Fleischmann released the following statement in response to President Obama’s proposed budget for FY2016.

“Much like in his State of the Union speech, the President has taken an opportunity to work with Congress and turned it into a partisan game. This budget would increase spending by $2.4 trillion, never balances and simply isn’t a real option. As Tennessee’s sole House Appropriator, I will use my oversight responsibility to comb through the President’s request and ultimately make sure taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and responsibly.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 2, 2015:

Nashville’s federal courthouse is Judiciary’s top priority

NASHVILLE – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) announced today that President Barack Obama’s newly released budget for FY 2016 includes funding for construction of a new federal courthouse building in Nashville.

“Nashville is #1 in the nation on the list of priorities for courthouse construction. This announcement is a critical next step in getting the courthouse built, but we’re not done yet,” Cooper said. “We still need Congress to appropriate the funds, and I hope that happens this year.”

Nashville has been waiting for a new courthouse since 1992, when the Estes Kefauver Federal Courthouse was first deemed “inadequate.”

In 2002, the federal government selected the downtown property on Church Street as the site of the new building and purchased the parcels making up the site from 2002-2005. Since then, further studies and an economic downturn have delayed construction on any new federal courthouse. Neither the President’s budget nor Congressional appropriations has included funding for courthouses in four of the last five years, with the exception of the Mobile, Ala., courthouse in FY 2014.

Federal courthouse funding is supposed to follow the Judicial Conference’s five-year plan that contains a priority list of proposed courthouses ranked by need. But for many years, the Judicial Conference’s priorities were routinely ignored in favor of political favoritism and earmarks, a process Cooper opposes.

Cooper has pushed for a transparent, fair funding process and has led bipartisan efforts to award projects based on priority, not politics. Cooper was a founding member of the Congressional Courthouse Caucus, which was formed to address the urgent need for functional, secure courthouses around the country. Cooper has written to President Obama and Members of the House Appropriations Committee several times asking them to prioritize courthouse funding. Cooper has also met with the General Services Administration regarding the public safety hazard that sits atop the site designated for Nashville’s new courthouse, urging its immediate demolition.

Press release from U.S. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. 06; February 2, 2015:

Washington, D.C. – Today Congressman Diane Black (R-TN-06), member of the House Budget Committee, released the following statement on President Obama’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2016:

“I had hoped to congratulate President Obama on finally delivering a budget to Congress by the legal deadline for the first time in five years, but this proposal isn’t really a budget at all – it is a messaging piece. This so-called budget ignores both the reality of our already crippling $18 trillion national debt and of a new Republican majority in Washington that will not allow this laughable tax-and-spend proposal to pass.” said Congressman Diane Black.

Congressman Black added, “The President promised in his State of the Union address to present ‘a budget filled with ideas that are practical, not partisan.’ Sadly, he has done just the opposite. This budget is not practical, it is political. By adding nearly $8.5 trillion to our debt over the budget window, the President’s plan prioritizes the next election over the next generation – which would be forced to foot the bill for his costly agenda. This budget does nothing to address the strain of our mandatory spending programs and never achieves balance. I look forward to working with my Republican colleagues on the House Budget Committee to craft a responsible, timely budget that offers a substantive alternative to the President’s reckless proposal.”

Additional information:

  • The President’s budget calls for $2.1 trillion in new tax increases, on top of $1.7 trillion in tax hikes already imposed by the AdministrationThis budget would grow total federal spending by $259 billion next year alone
  • Under this plan, interest on our debt would rise to $785 billion by 2025
  • The President’s budget increases annually-appropriated spending for next year by $74 billion over current law
  • Under the President’s budget, gross debt would climb to $26.3 trillion in 2025

(Source: House Budget Committee)

Press release from U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn.07; February 2, 2015:

Congressman Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), who is a member of the House Budget Committee, issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2016.

“President Obama has declared that the time for ‘mindless austerity’ is over, but there is nothing ‘mindless’ about creating a responsible budget and spending within one’s means. The President’s $4 trillion budget proposal will increase taxes and add to our $18 trillion national debt. At a time when our economy is still trying to get back on track, it isn’t prudent to raise taxes and stifle small business as a way of paying for wasteful government spending.

“The President’s budget is simply out of sync with the concerns of the American people – even 55% of Democrats believe that reducing the federal deficit is a ‘top priority.’ While I appreciate the President’s efforts to propose a budget on time, it would be more productive if he took our unprecedented level of national debt seriously. We need to stop spending money on failed policies from the past and instead craft a budget that will improve our country’s fiscal health and put more money back in the pockets of hard-working Americans.”

Press release from U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn. 09; February 2, 2015:

[WASHINGTON, DC] – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09) today issued the following statement regarding President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposal:

“President Obama’s budget is a positive vision for our nation’s future that will put us on a sustainable fiscal path. It will spur further economic growth by making critical investments to improve our roads and bridges—creating jobs in Memphis and around the country—and boost take-home pay for the middle-class while closing tax loopholes that allow the wealthiest one percent to avoid paying their fair share.”

“The President’s budget also gives middle-class families better access to higher education by making college more affordable and helps young adults climb out from under a mountain of student debt by capping monthly payments. And it will also help them find jobs by doing more to develop the high-paying, private-sector jobs that will keep our country competitive in the 21st century.”

“And by reversing mindless sequestration cuts, this budget proposal will reinvest in the National Institutes of Health, which is another U.S. department of defense that protects us from deadly diseases and illnesses—because Americans are far more likely to be stricken by Alzheimer’s, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, stroke, cancer, or Parkinson’s than by a terrorist attack. President Obama’s budget will help make our economy work for all Americans instead of just the wealthiest among us, and it is a step in the right direction.”

Cooper Assigned to 3 Armed Forces Subcommittees

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; February 24, 2015:

Appointed to three subcommittees; top Democrat on panel that oversees nuclear arsenal

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today announced his appointment to three subcommittees within the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).

“America has the finest military in the history of the world, and it’s the first duty of government to keep it that way,” Cooper said. “It’s an honor to work on the Armed Services committee and focus on issues involving strategic weapons, counterterrorism and oversight.”

Previously a member of two HASC subcommittees, Cooper received a special waiver to join a third in the current Congress.

As the Ranking Member of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, Cooper is responsible for overseeing America’s vast nuclear arsenal, as well as a $30 billion annual budget.

Cooper’s newest subcommittees include Emerging Threats and Capabilities, which provides oversight of the Pentagon’s $70 billion research and development budget. He’s also joining the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, which investigates allegations of waste, fraud and abuse within the Department of Defense.

The House Armed Services Committee is responsible for providing the common defense and general welfare of the United States. For the last 53 years, the committee has passed annual legislation to fund budgets and authorize policies for America’s armed forces.

Cooper Files Bill to ‘Eliminate Duplicative Programs’

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; January 28, 2015:

WASHINGTON – A bipartisan bill reintroduced today by Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) and Rep. Tim Walberg (R-MI) would require the federal government to find ways to eliminate duplicative programs.

The Taxpayers Right to Know Act unanimously passed the House in the last session of Congress. It would compel each federal agency to publish an annual report card for all of its programs.

Each agency’s list would be submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, which would determine how many identical and overlapping government programs exist and recommend ways to eliminate duplication.

“I hate when taxpayer money is wasted,” Rep. Cooper said. “It’s embarrassing that we even need this bill. Congress knows what it should cut. It just needs to do the job.”

“The American people deserve to know how their hard-earned tax dollars are spent, and the federal government should be accountable for its spending,” Rep. Walberg said. “It’s no secret the federal government is cluttered with wasteful and duplicative programs, and this bipartisan bill will help identify the outdated programs that should be streamlined or eliminated to save taxpayer money.”

U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) plans on introducing an identical companion measure in the Senate.

Each government program would be identified and reports would outline:

  • Total administrative costs of the program;
  • Total expenditures for services;
  • Total number of beneficiaries who receive assistance from the program; and
  • An estimate of the number of staff who administer the program, including contractor staff.

Each report also would include:

  • A listing of other programs within the agency with duplicative or overlapping missions and services;
  • The latest performance reviews for the program, including the metrics used to review the program;
  • The latest improper payment rate for the program, including fraudulent payments; and
  • The total amount of unspent and unobligated program funds held by the agency and grant recipients.

This information would be updated annually and posted online, along with recommendations to consolidate duplicative and overlapping programs; to eliminate waste and inefficiency; and to terminate lower priority, outdated and unnecessary programs.

The bill is based on the annual report from the Government Accountability Office on government duplication, waste and mismanagement. Last year’s report found 64 actions across 26 areas – ranging from unemployment benefits to military contracting practices – where agencies may be able to achieve greater efficiency or effectiveness.

 

Cooper Announces Support for Bill to Make Congressional Research Available to Public

Press release from U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn. 05; January 14, 2015:

“Everyone should be able to read what Congress is reading”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper (TN-05) today announced his support of a bipartisan bill that would allow the public to view Congressional research and agency reports.

The Public Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act would grant public access to taxpayer-funded research that, by law, is only available to members of Congress and their staffs. The legislation finally would let all Americans see the research Congress uses to draft bills, take votes and shape policy.

Cooper also co-sponsored the bill last Congress.

“Everyone should be able to read what Congress is reading,” Cooper said. “There’s a mountain of information that folks would find useful.”

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a division of the Library of Congress. CRS is staffed by policy experts who draft nonpartisan reports and analyses that are considered authoritative and objective on a range of topics.

As a dedicated Congressional support agency, CRS is joined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in providing Congress with objective information and analysis. While GAO and CBO reports are already publicly available, CRS reports remain shielded from public view.

Rep. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) are the bill’s lead sponsors. Numerous good-government groups and transparency watchdogs have endorsed their efforts, including the Sunlight Foundation, American Association of Law Libraries, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Center for Effective Government (formerly OMB Watch), OpentheGovernment.org, Center for Responsive Politics, and Project on Government Oversight (POGO).