News Releases

Senator Murray worked with Speaker Ryan on bill to provide more tools to help improve government programs and spending through the tax code
 
An idea to team up together again that started with a text conversation has now led to a law with strong bipartisan support

 

(Washington, D.C.)—Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) applauded the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act being signed into law by President Obama. The bipartisan bill, that she wrote with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), will establish a 15-member commission to study how best to strengthen and expand the use of data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures. The commission will also study how best to protect the privacy rights of individuals and ensure confidentiality.

 

“After Speaker Ryan and I passed the budget deal in 2013, we wanted to do more to prove that Democrats and Republicans could still work together. I’m proud that from that conversation came this law – and I look forward to the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission getting to work to help our government function better for those it serves,” said Senator Patty Murray. “This new law is great news for families in Washington state and across the country. We all agree that the government we have should work as well as possible, so I hope to further build on this foundation with continued bipartisan work to help improve the effectiveness of the federal government.”

 

The bill passed the Senate and then the House earlier this month. The bill passed through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee by a voice vote on June 24, 2015.

 

The idea to team up again came out of conversations between Senator Murray and Speaker Ryan following their work together to pass their Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. On election night in 2014, after a highly partisan campaign season, Speaker Ryan and Senator Murray were texting with each other and decided to do something to show that Democrats and Republicans could still work together. From this conversation came the decision to work together on the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act - a bill to create a bipartisan commission to make recommendations for how the federal government could better use data to improve programs and the tax code.

 

The commission will determine whether the federal government should establish a clearinghouse for program and survey data, what data should be included in the clearinghouse, and which qualified researchers from both the private and public sector could access the data to perform program evaluations and policy-relevant research. By coordinating data across federal programs and tax expenditures, and giving qualified researchers and officials greater access to that data, with appropriate controls on the use of that data, federal agencies will gain a better grasp of how effective they are, and lawmakers will gain a better grasp of how to improve them.

 

For more information on the bill, click here. For the text of the bill, click here.

 

Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016

 

·         The bill establishes a “Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking.” The Commission is charged with reviewing the inventory, infrastructure, security, and protocols related to data from federal programs and tax expenditures while developing recommendations for increasing the availability and use of this data in support of rigorous program evaluation.

·         In the course of its review, the Commission is specifically required to evaluate the merits of and provide guidance for creating a “clearinghouse” for program and survey data. The clearinghouse would make available and facilitate the merging of datasets that are valuable in evaluating program effectiveness and informing policymaking.

·         The Commission’s findings and recommendations are due to Congress 15 months after the Commission reaches 8 members—a simple majority.  The Commission ends not later than 18 months after the date of enactment.

·         The bill requires several agencies to provide assistance to the Commission including OMB, Census, and the Departments of Health and Human Services, Education and Justice.

·         The Commission is comprised of 15 members representing an array of disciplines relevant to program evaluation, program administration, and data management, including expertise in economics, statistics, and data security.  The Majority and Minority leaders in the Senate, and Speaker and Minority Leader in the House are authorized to appoint 3 members each, as is the President. 

·         The Commission would also study how best to protect the privacy rights of people who interact with federal agencies and ensure confidentiality.

·         The Commission is authorized to hire a Director (appointed by the Commission chair with the concurrence of the co-chair) and staff. The bill authorizes several federal agencies to provide up to a total of $3 million in funds to carry out the activities of the Commission. 

 

Additional background:

 

Washington Post: Murray, Ryan bill would “encourage both sides to…ask the right questions”: EJ Dionne wrote: “And so let us pause at the beachhead established after the midterm elections by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). They have co-sponsored a bill that’s unlikely to get a lot of attention but deserves some — not because it will revolutionize politics but because it could, and should, encourage both sides to begin their arguments by asking the right questions.”… Also, credit Murray and Ryan for this: They are looking not only at whether programs live up to their billing but also at whether the various tax breaks Congress has enacted — they are worth about $1 trillion a year — bring about the results their sponsors claim they will. If we are ever to reform the tax system, it would be useful to know which deductions, exemptions and credits are worth keeping. The bipartisan duo — they worked together amicably on budget issues despite large disagreements — are not asking the commission to invent something out of whole cloth. On the contrary, evidence-based social policy is a hot idea at the moment. [Washington Post column, 12/7/14]

 

Bipartisan Policy Center - Bipartisan Champions Murray and Ryan Propose New Commission on Evidence-based Policymaking. “At a time when Washington seems geared up for political posturing, Senator Murray and Congressman Ryan’s pragmatic leadership reminds us that Congress can still come together to tackle problems and offer fresh perspectives – in this case, a stronger evidence base for public spending and tax policies.” [Bipartisan Policy Center, 11/24/14]

·         “Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman (soon to be Ways and Means Committee Chairman) Paul Ryan (R-WI) have offered a welcome respite from partisan rancor with their proposal for an evidence-based policymaking commission.”  [Urban Institute, 12/1/14]

·         Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have teamed up again, this time on legislation seeking to give Congress a better understanding of federal tax and budget policy. The bill, from the heads of both the House and Senate Budget committees, would set up a 15-person commission to look into how the effectiveness of federal programs and tax breaks.”  [The Hill, 11/20/14]

 

Murray’s negotiations with GOP Rep. Ryan opened the door to their subsequent work on an evidence-based policy bill.

·         Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) have teamed up again, this time on legislation seeking to give Congress a better understanding of federal tax and budget policy. The bill, from the heads of both the House and Senate Budget committees, would set up a 15-person commission to look into how the effectiveness of federal programs and tax breaks.”  [The Hill, 11/20/14]

·         “Together they have teamed up on a bill to promote “evidence based policymaking.”…This arose from Ryan and Murray texting back and forth on Election Night 2014. The two of them said that “we should do something to show that Democrats and Republicans can work together, even after an election like this,” a Democratic aide said. [Brookings Institution Profiles in negotiation: The Murray-Ryan budget deal, 2/26/15]

·         “And so let us pause at the beachhead established after the midterm elections by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R—WI)….The bipartisan duo — they worked together amicably on budget issues despite large disagreements — are not asking the commission to invent something out of whole cloth. On the contrary, evidence-based social policy is a hot idea at the moment. [Washington Post column, 12/7/14]

 

Seattle Times: Murray And Ryan “Create A Model For Congress”:  The Seattle Times editorialized: “OUT of what is likely the least productive and most dysfunctional Congress in American history, a sliver of good governance has sometimes escaped. One such ray comes in the bipartisan proposal put forth by respective budget chairs Democratic U.S. Sen. Patty Murray of Washington and Republican U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin....At best, it would serve as an example of the cooperation and compromise needed to combat Congress' habitual partisan discord.” [Seattle Times, Editorial, 12/12/14]

 

Morning Telegraph: Murray-Ryan Evidence Bill “A Positive Step.” The Tyler Morning Telegraph opined: “Results matter. Intentions are important, but results are what truly count. That’s why House Speaker Paul Ryan’s antipoverty legislation, authored with Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington, is so important. It does something welfare programs in the United States have historically avoided - it measures results… hat commission would look at the data for the country’s many assistance programs to see what works and what doesn’t. Now, this is a positive step, and an important one. As Ryan and many other conservatives have said throughout the years, Americans are a compassionate people - but we want to be effective. Throwing money at a problem isn’t enough. Solutions must actually solve something. Indeed, if all poverty required was an infusion of cash, we could address that easily enough. A simple check mailed to every poor family in the nation would fix everything. There are two dangers here in Ryan’s and Murray’s bill. The first is the tendency of Washington to rely on technocrats these days - people whose command of computers and data seem wizard-like to the rest of us. Let’s establish that commission and hire the techies, but let’s not expect them to perform miracles or to have a real depth of understanding about poverty and economics.” [Tyler Morning Telegraph editorial, 3/20/16]

 

Ryan And Murray Continued Rapport Over Football, Bipartisan Data-Based Policymaking. Politico Magazine’s Jill Lawrence reported: “Murray and Ryan have moved on since their budget feat… Together they have teamed up on a modest but constructive bill to promote “evidence based policymaking.” It would create a 15-member commission to study how best to expand the use of data to evaluate the effectiveness of federal programs and tax expenditures…Ryan and Murray also have continued to poke at each other about their football teams. "#TBT to when I gave @PRyan a signed @DangeRussWilson @Seahawks jersey. Care for a friendly wager on Sunday?" Murray tweeted a few days before the Seahawks faced off against the Packers for the A.F.C. championship. "Great #TBT @PattyMurray, but it will be all @packers on Sunday. I've got some WI Gouda and Gray's beer to back it up. You're on! #GoPackGo," Ryan retorted. To which Murray replied, "You're on, @PRyan. I'll bet some @Rainier_Beer & cheese from @WSUPullman that the @packers can't handle the @Seahawks & the 12s -PM."” [Politico Magazine, 2/25/15]

 

Politico Magazine: Ryan And Murray “A Reminder That… Every Once In A While Good-Faith Compromise Can Prevail.” Politico Magazine reported: “Like that football game, which sent the triumphant Seahawks to the Super Bowl, it was a reminder that sometimes it's impossible for both sides to win. But as Ryan and Murray demonstrated, every once in a while good-faith compromise can prevail.” [Politico Magazine, 2/25/15]