Have we saved the data? Maybe


Online transparency programs will enjoy a reprieve from the chopping block if the short term budget resolution posted late last night by House Republicans were to become law. The latest proposal appears to continue funding the sites at the same level at half the level as last year instead of cutting them to virtually nothing as was originally proposed. In short: our response is working. But we’re not out the woods yet.

Under the short term resolution, the Electronic Government Fund, which pays for USASpending.gov, Data.gov, the IT Dashboard, and other tech transparency programs, would be funded at $17m for the remainder of the time the continuing resolution is in effect, i.e., until April 15 the year, which is the equivalent of the $34m annual appropriation it received last year. (I am reading the budget resolution quickly, so I believe the money is for the remainder of the year. But these things are tricky.) The Sunlight Foundation, joined by a coalition of organization and more than 2,000 citizens, have called for these transparency programs to be saved.

This short term continuing resolution would keep the government’s lights on through April 15 and fund the Department of Defense to the end of the year, but contains a number of provisions that many political leaders will be reluctant or unwilling to accept.

If today’s negotiations between House Republicans, Senate leaders, and the President reach an agreement, we will see a second bill introduced in the House before midnight tonight that would fund the government through the end of the year. (Three days must elapse between when a bill is made publicly available and when the House can vote on it under the 72-hour-rule, and the government is scheduled to shut down at midnight on Friday.) We’ll have to keep a close look to see if that long-term agreement would also restore funding to Electronic Government Fund programs.

If today’s negotiations over a long-term solution do not reach an agreement today, the short term resolution still faces political obstacles in the Senate and a possible veto by the president. As part of the negotiations over its provisions, we could see the resolution modified by the Senate and sent back to the House; a failure of both houses to agree would lead to a government shutdown.

All that is clear is that your speaking out is making a difference. Please keep calling and emailing and blogging and writing. Together we can save the data.

* Updated: On the question of whether the E-gov fund was reinstated, as I suspected above, I was reading the legislative language too quickly. The short term continuing resolution would make a pro-rated $17m available to the E-Gov fund for the week between April 8 and 15th — i.e. around  $886 thousand — and then would expire. How much money will be available for the remainder of the year, even if the CR passes, is very much open. It’s also worth noting that the short term CR would fund the E-Gov at half the level of last year.