Congress Can Save Taxpayers Billions By Using Data Science to Stop Improper Payments

By Maggi Molina and Dan Lips

Congress faces major challenges in 2020—including the Coronavirus pandemic and addressing its significant disruptions to our way of life. With the Congressional Budget Office already forecasting trillion dollar federal deficits through 2030, lawmakers may have less flexibility to authorize new spending to address these problems.

One way for Congress to improve the government’s balance sheet would be to stop federal agencies from making improper payments. “Improper payments” doesn’t sound that bad — perhaps you used Paypal instead of Venmo — but they are essentially illegal payments. These are payments that should not have been made or that were made in incorrect amounts.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently reported that federal agencies made $175 Billion in improper payments in 2019. Of those, $75 Billion (or 42 percent) were reported as a “monetary loss, an amount that should not have been paid and in theory should or could be recovered.” More than two-thirds of the improper payments were concentrated in three programs: Medicaid, Medicare, and the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

GAO warned that the problem could be even bigger: “The federal government’s ability to understand the full scope of its improper payments is hindered by incomplete, unreliable, or understated agency estimates,” among other issues. Indeed, a number of agencies do not accurately report this information.

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Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending April 2, 2020

For the week ending April 2, 2020, there were 4 Capitol Police incidents reported; 4 individuals arrested. Only 3 of the 4 incidents reported were within USCP jurisdiction. There were 3 traffic related incidents, including two invalid traffic permits. Numbers continue to decline as the US Capitol Complex stays closed and DC’s stay-at-home order goes into effect. 

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2010 vs. 2020: How The Legislative Branch Distributes Its Funds

Congress is underfunded, plain and simple.

The Legislative Branch has received the smallest slice of the federal spending pie— less than 1% of all non-defense discretionary funds — for years. How does Congress allocate these limited funds? Have those priorities shifted over the last decade?

We took a look at the 2010 and 2020 Legislative Branch budgets, plus the proposed values for 2021 to find out. Historic values were adjusted to 2020 dollars; figures do not include supplemental appropriations or Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) appropriations.

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Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending March 12, 2020

For the week ending March 12, 2020, there were 9 Capitol Police incidents reported; 10 individuals arrested. There were 5 traffic related incidents, including 2 invalid permit arrests. On Wednesday, March 4th, the Capitol Police arrested 2 individuals actively demonstrating in room 2358-C of the Rayburn House Office Building and also arrested an individual for throwing a piece of paper at a Member of Congress during a committee hearing in room 342 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. 

Here’s how this week’s activity was distributed:

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Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending March 5, 2020

For the week ending March 5, 2020, there were 10 Capitol Police incidents reported; 14 individuals arrested. There were 7 traffic related incidents, including 3 invalid permit arrests. Capitol Police arrested 4 individuals who were demonstrating during a committee hearing in the Rayburn House Office Building on Friday, February 28 around 9 am. 

Here’s how this week’s activity was distributed:

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Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending February 27, 2020

For the week ending February 27, 2020, there were 8 Capitol Police incidents reported; 17 individuals arrested. There were 6 traffic related incidents, including 3 invalid permit arrests. Capitol Police arrested 10 individuals for blocking vehicle and pedestrian traffic while chanting and holding signs near First Street, NE on Monday, February 24 around 10:30 am. 

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Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending February 20, 2020

For the week ending February 20, 2020, there were 9 Capitol Police incidents reported; 9 individuals arrested. There were 4 traffic related incidents, including 3 invalid permit arrests. Capitol Police arrested ‘multiple’ individuals for crowding and obstructing Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center on Monday, February 17th around 11 am. 

Here’s how this week’s activity was distributed:

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Capitol Police Round Up: Week Ending February 13, 2020

For the week ending February 13, 2020, there were 9 Capitol Police incidents reported; 18 individuals arrested. There were 2 traffic related incidents, including 1 invalid permit arrest. Capitol Police arrested 10 individuals for crowding and obstructing the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday, February 5th at 1:47 pm. 

Here’s how this week’s activity was distributed:

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