The House will approve legislation this week that would put significant new restrictions on the ability of Executive Branch agencies to hold conferences, a reaction to several lavish conferences that Republicans have targeted as wasteful spending at a time of fiscal crisis.
The Government Spending Accountability Act, H.R. 4631, was introduced by Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.), and would put a $500,000 cap on government conferences. However, this cap can be exceeded if the head of an agency determines that the expenditure is "justified as the most cost-effective option to achieve a compelling purpose," and submits that to Congress.
Every three months, agencies would have to report to Congress on the details of conferences they've held. That report would have to include a list of participants, the location and also a "brief explanation of how the participation of employees from such agency at the conference advanced the mission of the agency."
The report would also have to include a description of why the location was chosen, and an explanation of why the location was cost efficient.
Republicans erupted at the news of several government conferences that cost more than $1 million, including one held by the General Services Administration in Las Vegas two years ago. More recently, Senate Republicans pressed the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to cancel a conference in Hawaii — the Ninth Circuit did not cancel it, but did agree to cancel a planned 2013 conference.
Walsh's bill is one of many suspension bills that will be taken up in the House this week, and all will require a two-thirds vote for passage.