Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul D. Ryan are teaming up again, and this time it's to push a data commission that they say could help lawmakers figure out what works best in government.
It's nothing like the sweeping budget deal that Murray, D-Wash., and Ryan, R-Wis., fashioned in 2013, but just having their names attached attracts attention, as does the bipartisan backing.
Ryan’s legislation, the so-called Evidence-based Policymaking Commission Act of 2015 (HR 1831), won passage by voice vote in the House this week. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Murray’s companion bill (S 991) by voice vote on June 24. Democratic aides are hopeful it will be considered on the floor before the end of the year.
Ryan and Murray tout the proposal as a major step forward in figuring out what works, and what doesn’t, in government. The legislation would establish a commission charged with reviewing the inventory of federal data related to programs and tax expenditures and developing recommendations for making the data more available for the evaluation of programs’ effectiveness.
Ryan views the measure as a path to a more rigorous assessment of federal poverty programs, a cause he has adopted as he seeks to shift the discussion from how much is spent on programs to how well they do in helping people find jobs.
“If we did that, the debates we’d have in Washington wouldn’t be between liberals and conservatives, or between Democrats and Republicans, but between what works and what doesn’t,” he said during a talk at the Newseum on June 24.
He went on to link his anti-poverty effort with the proposed commission, which he said would "figure out how we can use data to evaluate public policy and report back to Congress."
Democrats are unlikely to support all of Ryan’s anti-poverty proposals, but they stand to gain by greater scrutiny of the various tax deductions, credits, exemptions and other tax breaks that are collectively referred to as tax expenditures and total more than $1 trillion a year. Murray and others in her party have continually pushed to eliminate some tax breaks, particularly those that benefit high-income individuals and corporations, as a way to pay for higher discretionary spending.
“Making sure federal investments and tax expenditures are working as well as possible for families across the country should never be a partisan issue, so I commend Rep. Paul Ryan for his hard work passing our bill through the House of Representatives today,” Murray said in a statement after the House passed the bill.
“I am going to keep working to pass this bill through the Senate and send it to the president’s desk so that Congress can have more tools to make sure our government is working for all families.”
Murray and Ryan introduced similar legislation last November but it did not get out of committee before the session ended.