House Holds Hearing on the Power of the Purse

The House Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on Government Operations and Healthcare, Benefits, and Administrative Rules convened a hearing on the power of the purse on December 1, 2016. It is an important topic.

The power of the purse is a fundamental legislative authority. It is an authority that aims to limit executive power, encourage agency accountability to elected officials, and curb corruption.

This December 1, 2016 hearing focused on one piece of the power of the purse—agencies’ authority to collect money from the public in the form of user fees, fines, and the like and then spend it. The president’s FY2017 budget reports the government collected $516 billion from the public this past year.

Rep. Gary J. Palmer introduced H.R. 5499, the Agency Accountability Act of 2016, which would require nearly every agency to send to the U.S. Treasury the monies they collect.

One of the huge takeaways from this hearing is that Congress does not really know which agencies are charging fees, how those fees are set (rarely are the fee levels written into law), and how much freedom agencies have to spend the fees. What we need is a map that connect agencies fund-collecting to statutory authorities therefore (both authorizations and appropriations). Without that, oversight is catch-as-catch-can.

The hearing video is posted below, and witnesses’ written testimony is at