Appropriations Cheat Sheet: Reforms To Include In 2021 Spending Bills

The 2021 appropriations process is ramping up with markups scheduled over next month and just a few months left before the end of the fiscal year. Appropriations bills can be a vehicle for institutional reform; we would like to elevate a few modernization ideas from a number of civil society organizations that lawmakers may wish to consider. (All of our recommendations are available online.)

1. Cultivate a more representative workforce by lowering financial barriers College to Congress

Establish an HR office in the House, provide permanent funds to pay interns, and raise the cap on the student loan repayment program for House employees; these changes would make working for Congress feasible for a wider swath of people. 


2. Support employees so they can do their jobs well — Issue One

Stronger staff training and onboarding, a more effective human resources hub, and further management training for more seasoned employees all contribute to better legislating


3. Provide Members of Congress staff who hold sufficient clearancesProject On Government Oversight & Demand Progress

Personal office staffers in the House and Senate are not permitted to hold TS/SCI clearances, which means members lose the benefit of a staffer who works for them that can attend briefings, review classified documents, and provide wise counsel.


4. Rebuild Congressional Science & Technology ExpertiseLincoln Network and the Belfer Center

Restoring GAO’s budget (closer) to its former capacity would ensure the Science & Tech (STAA) team has the resources it needs to do its job. There’s also the option to restore the Office of Technology Assessment


5. Create a Legislative Branch Information Technology Coordination Office Demand Progress

The Legislative Branch could be making better use of information technology in the legislative process; improvements require the left hand to know what the right hand is doing. Our proposed solution is a singular office that monitors how information is managed and shared throughout the Legislative Branch.


6. Track the reports due to Congress and hold non-compliant actors accountableDemand Progress 

How many reports has Congress required of federal agencies? When are they due? Who was required to submit the report? No one knows. We propose increasing accountability by funding the House Clerk to expand tracking of congressionally-mandated reports.


7. Empower GAO to hold the Executive Branch accountable Lincoln Network and National Security Counselors

Congress should pull the purse strings shut on agencies that aren’t complying with GAO oversight efforts. 


8. Publish comprehensive Capitol Police arrest information as data Demand Progress

Capitol Police shares little information with the public about department activities; the information they do publish is in PDF format, and can’t be analyzed in a meaningful way. Expanding the scope of information included in arrest summaries, and publishing that information as data would facilitate oversight. 


9. Expand CRS Report Access R Street Institute

Historical reports are not available to the public; the Library should share historic reports from the CRSX Archive. The reports that CRS does publish are posted as PDFs; HTML or a mobile friendly format would be better.


10. Make CBO cost estimates available before markups National Taxpayers Union

Currently almost 90% of the office’s estimates come out after a bill has been reported out of committee.