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Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mrs. LUMMIS. Madam Chairman, I have two amendments made in order under this rule. I will offer this amendment. However, thanks to those I've been working with across the aisle, I intend not to offer my second amendment.

Thank you, Mrs. Maloney.

The Equal Access to Justice Act, or EAJA, was originally passed in 1980 by a Congress concerned that everyday citizens could not afford to challenge the Federal Government in court when they had been wronged by government regulations. As originally designed, EAJA would reimburse small businesses, seniors and veterans for successfully challenging the Federal Government in court when no other law provided for that reimbursement.

It was a good idea then, and it remains a good idea today. For 15 years, the law has worked mostly as intended; but over time, cracks in the system have formed. In updating EAJA, it has become necessary to repair those cracks and to ensure EAJA's viability into the future. Three issues need to be resolved:

First, we need to ensure that our Nation's veterans, seniors, and small businesses have access to qualified attorneys. Right now, EAJA puts up unnecessary roadblocks to these legitimate users;

Second, we need to close loopholes that have allowed EAJA to be exploited by those dissatisfied with the reimbursements provided for them in the Nation's environmental laws;

Finally, we must reinstate tracking and reporting requirements so that Congress and every American has an accurate accounting of how much taxpayer money we spend to reimburse attorneys.

All three of those issues are addressed in H.R. 1996, the Government Litigation Savings Act; but this amendment, the one we are debating right now, only addresses the third issue--the transparency gap in EAJA.

As the recently released GAO report made clear, there is a severe lack of information on these payments. While we don't need that data to know exactly what has been happening with EAJA in recent years, going forward we need robust tracking as a management tool to ensure that EAJA works as intended. The tracking and reporting of EAJA payments is the part of the Government Litigation Savings Act that has broad agreement.

I greatly appreciate the work that the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee have put into this issue. We've come a long way on this, and the bill has benefited from constructive input from both sides of the aisle. We must continue to work together on providing a fair market rate for lawyers who represent veterans, seniors and small businesses, as well as on instituting a reasonable eligibility standard. Both of these issues require further deliberation, and I am hopeful that the chairman and ranking member will commit to working with me to further update EAJA as I am committed to working with them.

In the meantime, let's pass this transparency amendment, which is the third leg of the three-pronged need to address the EAJA issues. This is the one on which we all agree, this third issue of transparency.

Madam Chairman, I reserve the balance of my time.

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