Congress owes American people greater accountability

November 14, 2017
Contributed Columns

In communities across Arizona, hard-working families, seniors, and veterans face real challenges that Congress should address in order to bring them relief.

Unfortunately, government officials are more preoccupied with using your tax dollars to charter private jets, eroding the powers of independent ethics watchdog groups, and advancing divisive, partisan rhetoric.

Gridlock has become so commonplace that we no longer give it a second thought. It undermines the work we could be doing to benefit our country for now and the future. The trend of reduced transparency worsens all of this.

Nowhere is this divisive rhetoric and gridlock more apparent than in the failed partisan efforts to reform the Affordable Care Act. Throughout the process, Congressional leaders disregarded transparency and accountability to a degree we have never seen before.

The American people (as well as many members of Congress, even Republicans) were kept in the dark on legislation that would impact people’s daily lives and disrupt a quarter of the U.S. economy. This behavior is unacceptable for any political party.

We owe the American people greater accountability, not less. I have made it my goal to raise the ethical bar in Congress and shine a light on government actions. This year, I introduced three pieces of legislation to rein in wasteful government spending, strengthen independent ethics watchdog groups, and ensure elected officials answer to the American people. I have also requested information from the Administration about these issues.

My first bill, the Clean Legislating and Ethical Accountability Now (CLEAN) Act, strengthens the Office of Congressional Ethics by making it a permanent office and providing it with the resources it needs to fully investigate allegations of ethical wrongdoing by members of Congress and their staff. I also introduced the No Ongoing Perks Enrichment (NOPE) Act, which prohibits taxpayer-funded first-class flights for members of Congress and staff, freezes Congressional pay, withholds pay unless a budget is passed, and increases the lobbying ban for former members of Congress from two years to five years.

More recently, following reports that federal officials have been chartering private jets to travel around the world using taxpayer funds, I introduced the Taxpayers Don’t Incur Meaningless Expenses (Taxpayers DIME) Act. This bill increases transparency and oversight of government travel and bans the use of American tax dollars on privately chartered flights that violate existing rules for senior federal officials.

It is long past time for members of Congress to promote transparency and put bipartisan compromise over partisan gridlock. We cannot continue to allow our differences to divide us while the American people are struggling. I urge my colleagues to join me to hold ourselves to higher standards of transparency and accountability. People have low confidence in Washington.

Now is the time for Congress to eliminate conflicts of interests and abuse of taxpayer dollars. We must get back to governing in a way that invests in the future of our nation, grows our economy, and creates good-paying jobs.