McCaskill: Congress Should Play By the Same Rules As Everyone Else
Senators proposal would bring much needed reforms to legislators foreign travel and budgets
February 20, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Claire McCaskill announced today a series of common sense reforms that will bring change to the way Congress does business. McCaskill's proposal builds on previous efforts to reform Washington by bringing new accountability to Congress while forcing members to do their part to begin addressing the budget crisis.
"There's nothing that irritates Americans more than the fact that some members of Congress think they are entitled to their own set of rules. And it's true - too many people in Washington live in an alternate reality. It's time for that to stop," McCaskill said.
McCaskill's new proposal adds three simple goals to her past reform efforts:
· The creation of an independent watchdog for the Senate
· Reform of government-paid foreign travel
· An ask for members to return 10 percent of their office funds to the United States Treasury to help pay down our deficit
McCaskill's most recent efforts round out years of work to reform the Senate, including stopping secret holds, introducing legislation to end automatic annual pay raises for Congress, ending the earmarking process and trying to open up closed hearings to the public.
McCaskill's Common Sense Congress Proposal
Creating an independent watchdog for the Senate
McCaskill is introducing legislation that would create an independent non-partisan watchdog to investigate, audit, and review Senate operations. The purpose of the Senate Inspector General would be to help identify waste and inefficiencies in the upper chamber of the legislative branch, and report the findings to the full Senate. The watchdog position would add a common sense layer of non-partisan accountability currently lacking in the Senate.
Reforming government-paid foreign travel
McCaskill is introducing a bill to establish common sense rules for government-paid foreign travel undertaken by members of Congress. By putting in place new restrictions and making the process fully transparent, McCaskill's legislation will crack down on a lax system that has led to abuses in the past. Currently the government cannot account for the amount of money spent each year on congressional foreign travel and has limited or no public disclosure of trips taken, destinations, the number of travelers, or even the total cost.
Specifically, this part of the proposal would:
· Require members to complete detailed pre- and post-travel reports which include more information on the purpose of travel, attendees, total costs (including per diem amounts spent and travel costs borne by executive agencies), and justification for any staff members accompanying their travel;
· Require foreign travel expenditures be subject to the normal Congressional appropriation process;
· Require members and authorizing officials to make post-travel reports publicly available on their respective websites;
· Require members and their staff to use coach or economy class for any flights under 14-hours, and
· Authorize the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on how much executive branch agencies spend on Congressional foreign travel.
For some examples of egregious Congressional travel click here and here and here.
Return at least 10 percent of office funds to the United States Treasury to help pay down our deficit
Members of Congress are allocated funding on a yearly basis to operate their offices and pay their staff. Since she was elected, McCaskill has returned at least 10 percent of her funds each year. In an effort to keep her office budget as low as possible, McCaskill has emphasized doing more with less. As a result, she has returned over $1.6 million over the past four years. McCaskill is now pushing common sense legislation that will allow members to return funds they save directly to the Treasury to help pay down the deficit.
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