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Iowa senator seeks to increase government transparency and end Biden administration's 'secret spending'

PoliticsIowa senator seeks to increase government transparency and end Biden administration's 'secret spending'

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FIRST ON FOX: Sen. Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa, will introduce a bill on Tuesday that seeks to bar government agencies from concealing details about reported transactions by mislabeling them as “other transaction agreements.” 

The legislation, titled the Stop Secret Spending Act of 2024, seeks to prevent bureaucratic agencies from using the term “OTA” in reporting their spending to the Government Accountability Office

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OTA’s are defined as “legally binding agreements other than standard contracts and grants that allow for flexible arrangements,” according to the GAO. 

According to the latest data, the current U.S. national debt stands at roughly $34.4 trillion and is increasing by about $1 trillion every 100-day period.

The legislation would insert the phrase “other transaction agreement” into the list of terms considered “federal awards,” thus requiring various disclosures about the transaction, such as the entities involved and the amounts.

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Ernst’s new measure geared toward increasing government spending transparency comes during 2024’s Sunshine Week, which celebrates and recognizes the importance of openness in government and the dangers of excessive confidentiality. National Freedom of Information Day falls on March 16. 

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Ernst described it as “disappointing” to need to address this issue during Sunshine Week. 

“Once again, Biden is hiding billions by not disclosing the details about the dollars his deputies are doling out using loosely defined deals referred to as ‘other transaction agreements,’ or OTAs,” she said. 

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Sen. Joni Ernst

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks with reporters on Capitol Hill on March 6, 2024. (Reuters/Bonnie Cash)

These agreements amount to “sweetheart deals,” the Iowa senator said. 

In fiscal years 2020-2022, the GAO found that more than $40 billion was reported by agencies under the term’s umbrella. The office further noted that about $10 billion was seemingly related to the COVID-19 pandemic but that the expenditures weren’t reported to the GAO as such. It also detailed that agencies appeared to use different strategies in reporting transactions as OTAs. Per the GAO, “Policymakers and the public will continue to lack complete spending information and transparency of OTAs” until they are considered federal rewards and held to that reporting standard.

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The Treasury Department is seen near sunset

The Treasury Department (AP Photo/Jon Elswick/File)

Ernst slammed the Treasury Department in her statement to Fox News Digital for suggesting that OTA spending should not be reported to USASpending.gov because it isn’t currently defined as a federal award. 

She cited the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006, noting that it states “federal financial assistance and expenditures” totaling more than $25,000 should be reported.

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Iowa Senator Joni Ernst speaks at a podium in the halls of Congress

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, speaks during a press conference, May 2, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“Seems pretty clear to me,” Ernst said. 

Because of this, she said she plans to give the department her monthly “Squeal Award.” The purpose of the recognition is to identify and call out “wasteful” expenses. 

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President Biden’s proposed fiscal 2025 budget, which was released Monday, includes borrowing $16.3 trillion. According to the White House, the amount would be partially offset by taxes raised on corporations and the nation’s highest earners. The Biden administration has said his budget proposal would actually lower the national deficit by $3 trillion over 10 years.

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