Federal News Radio today has an important quote from House Oversight Committee Chairman Issa:
“It was one of the things I begged my partners on the other side of the aisle to come back and say there is a price to pay to keep this up,” Issa said during a panel discussion hosted by the Association of Government Accountants. “We will find a way, and this is a personal pledge, to make sure they are not shutdown. The specific funding goes away but reprogramming authority would still be available. Our view is on a case-by-case basis we will be able to keep them open.”
This is huge.
First, it’s huge because very few lawmakers have been willing to publicly support these initiatives during this budget fight. (When cost isn’t an issue at all, there are quotes galore.) With this quote, Chairman Issa joins Senator Lieberman and Rep. Serrano, who both were quoted in an earlier Federal News radio piece.
Issa doesn’t just speak highly of the effort, though: “”We will find a way, and this is a personal pledge, to make sure they are not shutdown.”
Relatively few staffers and lawmakers understand what online transparency is about, and even fewer for open data. We’re lucky that our Chairs of jurisdiction — Lieberman and Issa — are both emerging as champions for the issue.
Up to now, these sites have been referred to as “Obama administration sites.” This is a bit of an unfortunate formulation. As convenient as it can be to try to attach everything to the President’s persona, government transparency doesn’t start or end with this, or any President. Obama’s open government work has been transformative and important, and that’s why it can’t just be his.
If we entirely defund USASpending or Data.gov, we wouldn’t be erasing an “Obama initiative” as much as we’d be removing the only portal to federal grants and contracts, or shutting down the clearinghouse for federal bulk data access. Transparency reform often functions through political incentives, but it isn’t a political phenomenon. It’s a democratic phenomenon.
That’s the other reason I’m excited about Issa’s outspoken pledge to support transparency sites, even in the face of budget cuts. In Issa, we have a leading Republican who was willing to say more in public to support executive branch transparency sites than the entire executive branch was.
That’s not compromise or bipartisanship, but firm consensus. And it bodes well for the future of what we’re all trying to build.