Merkley Introduces Legislation Requiring Congressional Oversight and Transparency for Funding Transfers

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley today introduced the Transparency in Federal Spending Act, legislation that would require full transparency and congressional oversight of funding transfers within federal agencies.

Merkley’s legislation follows the revelations this fall that the Trump Administration diverted nearly half a billion dollars in funding from other programs to fund family detention centers and child prisons. It also comes as White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Tuesday that “there are… a number of different funding sources that we’ve identified that we can use” to fund President Trump’s border wall.

The Transparency in Federal Spending Act would require public transparency, including an online public database, of all funding transfers made within and between agencies.

“The American people deserve transparency and accountability when it comes to how their taxpayer dollars are being spent,” said Merkley. “President Trump should not be able to make secret decisions to move vast sums of money to fund projects Congress has not authorized and even projects that Congress has explicitly rejected.” 

Since the summer, the Trump Administration has aggressively pursued a strategy of forcing families fleeing persecution abroad to wait in internment camps for their asylum hearings. In recent months, Trump officials have doubled down on this strategy, proposing a new regulation that would allow children to be detained indefinitely alongside their parents.  

Over the weekend, Merkley went back to the border to inspect facilities where families and children are being held. At Tornillo, a tent prison camp currently holding 2,800 children, he learned that more than 2,000 of those children have been there for over 20 days. Additionally, 1,300 of the Tornillo children have sponsors in the United States—mostly family members—who have already passed background checks, but the children’s release has been postponed by bureaucratic delays put in place by the Trump Administration.

Merkley’s actions this week follow his work to expose how the Trump Administration has diverted nearly half a billion dollars from other critical programs in order to fund detention of immigrants as part of its zero-humanity, “zero tolerance” policy. This fall, he revealed that the Trump Administration took over $200 million from other programs—including $10 million from FEMA as Hurricane Florence was bearing down on the Carolinas—to jail asylum-seekers. Further documents also showed that the Trump Administration diverted $266 million from programs including HIV/AIDS treatment, cancer research, and meals for seniors in order to fund an unprecedented surge in detention of child immigrants, including expansion of Tornillo—which costs approximately $1 million per day to operate.

The Transparency in Federal Spending Act would require that:

  • If an executive agency requests a reprogramming of funds or uses authority available to reprogram or transfer funds, that agency is required to concurrently post such information on their website.
  • If the request, reprogramming, or transfer is $5,000,000 or above, the agency is required to concurrently notify each member of the Committees on Appropriations of the Senate and the House of  Representatives.