Palmer introduces bill to restore congressional appropriations oversight
Congressman Gary Palmer (AL-6) introduced legislation Tuesday which would require unappropriated funds collected by federal agencies to be transferred to the U.S. Treasury and subject to the congressional appropriations process.
H.R. 850, the Agency Accountability Act, was referred to four House committees: Oversight and Reform, Judiciary, Budget and Rules.
“This legislation would bring needed transparency and oversight back to our government and would hold federal agencies accountable,” Palmer said in a statement.
He explained, “Though agencies are allowed to collect money outside of their appropriated funds, Congress has little say in how it is spent. While passage of the Agency Accountability Act would not necessarily deprive agencies of these funds, it would reestablish the responsibility of Congress to appropriate them. Passage of H.R. 850 would be an important step toward restoring congressional oversight through the appropriations process. Congress must reclaim its power of the purse as granted by the Constitution, and this legislation would be progress towards that.”
Over time, Congress has granted federal agencies the authority to collect fines, fees and other revenues outside of duly appropriated funds. According to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the federal government collected $516 billion in user fees alone in 2015. Some of these funds are used by agencies to self-fund, making agencies unaccountable for certain acts and has considerably limited congressional oversight. For example, fines and penalties make up 15 percent of the total budget of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Of the $63.7 billion in funds collected, the DOJ retains almost $27.4 billion.
Palmer also introduced the Agency Accountability Act in the previous two Congresses. The legislation has received support from FreedomWorks, Heritage Action, R Street Institute, Americans for Tax Reform and Americans for Limited Government.
H.R. 850 has 62 House cosponsors, including Congressman Bradley Byrne (AL-1) and Congressman Mo Brooks (AL-5).
Palmer, who is now serving as chairman of the Republican Policy Committee, represents parts or all of Jefferson, Shelby, Chilton, Coosa, Blount and Bibb counties. Through this important leadership position, he is the fifth highest-ranking House Republican.
Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn