WASHINGTON D.C. — Congressman Jim Jordan drilled four panel members Thursday concerning the use of funds collected by various government organizations without congressional oversight in a joint hearing held by the Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules and the Subcommittee on Government Operations.
Rep. Mark Meadows said that an alarming trend had emerged of the executive branch collecting various funds for fees, fines and settlements.
“These funds are being spent without any true congressional oversight,” Meadows said.
Rep. Gary Palmer has introduced H.R. 5499, the Agency Accountability Act. The bill would among other things primarily require any agency that receives fees, fines, or other proceeds from a settlement to deposit the amount in the general fund of the U.S. Treasury. Any amounts deposited must be used for deficit reduction.
Jordan asked U.S. Government Accountability Acting Director of Strategic Issues director Heather Krause what was the “number we are looking at” when collecting fees from government agencies. Krause responded that the number was unknown, but Jordan pointed out that according to President Barack Obama’s 2017 budget, the number was designated at $534 billion for collection of fees alone. Another $83 billion was determined for collection of fines and penalties. Jordan said that number represented about half of annual congressional discretionary spending at $1.2 trillion.
“That’s a lot of money,” Jordan said.
Jordan said that the $83 billion did not even include IRS fines collected. He added that collections for settlements are often just “shakedowns,” where a company is offered a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department, when they are directed to give an amount to a non-profit.
Kevin Kosar, a senior fellow at R Street Institute, Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Coalition, and Stephen Kohn, executive director of the National Whistleblower Center, also answered questions on the panel.
Hollister said that communication problems between the Treasury and other government offices led to difficulty getting an exact figure.
Meadows stated later that the $617 billion spent without Congressional control alone would get the U.S. halfway to the proposed $1 trillion to be spent on infrastructure that has been proposed by President-Elect Donald Trump.
Rep. Gerry Connolly argued the collection of fees currently survived constitutional muster because there has been no court ruling challenging the right of Congress to delegate those responsibilities. He said Congress needed to contemplate the unseen effects.
“It’s a noble goal, but I don’t think it’s practical,” Connolly said.
Jordan argued that US v. MacCollom determined that Congress should be involved with all spending.
“This legislation is important and valuable,” Jordan said.
Reach Lance Mihm at 567-242-0409 or at [email protected]