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In Wake of GSA Scandal, Senate Passes Agency Travel Reforms

The Senate today approved by voice vote an amendment that would reform spending and oversight for federal agency travel and conferences.

The measure, championed by Sen. Tom Coburn, was passed as part of a larger amendment agreement on a postal services bill and represents one of the most significant reform efforts on the issue to date. The Oklahoma Republican was able to advance the measure without a roll call vote because of newfound and widespread support for reform in the wake of a scandal involving a lavish 2010 General Services Administration conference.

“Congress has finally said ‘the party’s over’ when it comes to conference spending. We have seen scandal after scandal because Congress has failed to do oversight,” Coburn said in a statement following the amendment’s adoption. “I’m pleased my colleagues took this common sense step to limit conference spending and require greater transparency and accountability. I’m hopeful some version of this amendment will be accepted in the House of Representatives on this bill or another bill in the near future.”

Roll Call first reported the amendment was on track for approval Monday.

Coburn’s measure would cap the total cost of individual events at $500,000 and slash the total amount spent on conferences annually by 20 percent. The amendment also would require government agencies to publish detailed spending reports on conferences supported or attended by those agencies every three months on their websites.

If the measure is signed into law, the disclosures would have to include an explanation of how the conference advanced the agency’s mission, the total attendance of the conference, the location of the conference, a justification of that location in terms of cost efficiency, dates, and the number of federal and nonfederal employees who attended the event on the agency’s tab.

The Senate is expected to vote on final passage for the underlying bill Wednesday.