U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-VA) today successfully amended the 2014 Senate budget resolution, adding three amendments which collectively promote more effective, transparent and cost-efficient government. Each of Sen. Warner's three proposals received unanimous bipartisan support today. The Budget Committee is scheduled to vote on the overall 2014 budget bill within the hour, and it is expected to be considered by the full Senate next week.
Warner Amendment #1
This amendment, which was adopted on a 22-0 vote, supports legislation to reduce the backlog and the processing time for federal benefits at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Federal retirees routinely wait for more than one year to receive earned benefits and almost two years to process death benefit claims. The current OPM paperwork backlog stands at more than 41,000 cases, and the agency is mired in a paper-based process and is unprepared for an expected wave of new claims. This amendment, which is deficit-neutral, would pave the way for further improvements at OPM.
"In the coming years, OPM will continue to face an ever growing number of federal employees who will be eligible to retire, and we can and should do better in processing the benefits they have earned," Sen. Warner said. "We need to do all that we can to help prepare OPM to effectively handle its important responsibilities in a more timely manner."
"Sen. Warner spent a great deal of time looking at these issues, and I think this is an amendment that really calls attention to a breakdown in our government service," said committee Chair Patty Murray (D-WA). "We have a lot of employees that spend a lifetime dedicated to public service, and I think that this is a tribute to really looking at a way to solve a problem."
"If we reduce the backlog time, that reduces the workload in terms of time spent on each claim and over time, it should actually reduce the cost of government," said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). "I appreciate Senator Warner's leadership on this."
Warner Amendment #2
This amendment, which was adopted on a unanimous voice vote, supports legislation that expands public transparency by tracking where every federal dollar is spent. Current systems do not provide complete, detailed information on spending or agency performance. This deficit-neutral amendment encourages the improvement and expansion of websites and data standards to provide more complete transparency for the public and Congress.
"It is appropriate that we acted on this amendment during Sunshine Week, which is designed to draw attention to the need for more open government," Sen. Warner said. "Our financial management is in silos with outdated legacy IT systems built upon incompatible terms and classifications. This amendment should help speed the day when citizens are able to easily track every dollar that the federal government spends."
Warner Amendment #3
This deficit reduction amendment allows for legislation to eliminate or modify congressionally mandated reports in order to reduce the federal debt. Sen. Warner's Government Performance Results Modernization Act of 2010 required OMB and federal agencies to identify outdated or duplicative reports that could be eliminated or modified to save time and money. In January, OMB provided a list of 376 reports from 29 agencies that Sen. Warner will introduce legislation to eliminate or modify. This amendment would allow any savings from the eliminated or modified reports to support deficit reduction.
"I know the elimination of duplicate reports represents a relatively small amount of savings in relation to our total federal budget, but if we cobble together enough of these commonsense savings, it adds up," Sen. Warner said.