Congress Passes Pork Spotting Bill, Finally

By Asa Eslocker

Sep 15, 2006 12:43pm

After a summer of internet conspiracy theories over a "secret hold" preventing its passage, the highly acclaimed pork spotting bill, which would make it easier to spot pet projects and wasteful spending by U.S. congressmen, passed Congress yesterday. "This is the biggest step in a decade for budget transparency and moves the government into the electronic age," says Steve Ellis, Vice President of Programming for the non-partisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.  "It gives the average taxpayer one-stop shopping to monitor electronically how our government spends our money." U.S. Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Barack Obama (D-IL) hailed the Congress’s passage of the "Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act," a bill that proposes a user-friendly search engine that would disclose the nearly $1 trillion spent annually in federal contracts, grants, loans and pork barrel spending. THE BLOTTER RECOMMENDS He Said, He Said: Republican In-Fighting Surrounds the Secret Hold And the Mystery Senator Is… Click Here for More of the Brian Ross Page "Every American has the right to know how their government spends their money, and then to hold elected officials accountable for those decisions," Sen. Coburn said.  "This bill is a small but significant step toward changing the culture in Washington."  But it wasn’t always smooth sailing for this landmark pork tracing bill.  Right before summer recess the original senate bill ran into a procedural snag — an uncommon secret hold — that prevented it from making it to the senate floor after it was passed unanimously in the Homeland Security Committee. After extensive grassroots investigating by bloggers, teams of internet watchdog groups and even senate staffers, the sources of the anonymous hold, Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) and later Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), were made public. Senator Stevens’ staff denied to ABC News that the hold placed on the bill was in fact secret, but many who study congressional procedure, like Ellen Miller of the Sunlight Foundation, disagree. "I think Senator Stevens’ response is an attempt to spin the situation. A secret hold means that the public at large did not know," according to Ellen Miller, executive director of the Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit group advocating more electronic transparency in government. Sen. Coburn, the bill’s lead sponsor, lauded the vigilance of the alarmed public and online community for supporting the bill.  "The bloggers, commentators and citizens who tirelessly pushed for this transparency legislation deserve full credit for its enactment." The bill now goes to the President for his signature, and many like Ellis hope that because November is near, the bill will be signed into law. "No one would try to get in the way of this bill this close to election," Ellis said.

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