Eleventh-Hour Amendment Could Curb Feds’ Meeting Attendance

A new amendment to the continuing resolution that would extend funding for the government through fiscal year 2013 aims to limit the number of federal employees attending conferences.

Please see bottom of story for an update on this issue.

A last-minute amendment to the continuing resolution being debated in the Senate would prohibit more than 25 employees from a federal agency from attending any meeting or conference in the United States.

Conferences and junkets for federal employees is an area where Congress can take immediate action to cut costs and prevent waste.

Although it is unclear whether the amendment, introduced last week by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), will come to a vote, Senate leadership has expressed a desire to expedite debate on amendments and pass the continuing resolution to keep the government operating past March 27 and through the end of the fiscal year.

“Conferences and junkets for federal employees is an area where Congress can take immediate action to cut costs and prevent waste,” the amendment states [PDF].

Amendment 67 is based on language within the CR that prohibits funding for more than 50 employees from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to attend conferences outside the United States without congressional approval. The amendment aims to apply that standard to all federal agencies.

The text of Amendment 67 reads: “This amendment extends the prohibition in the CR to cover all federal agencies and all conferences, both within and outside of the United States. It also lowers the number of employees to 25. Therefore, the amendment would prohibit funding for more than 25 federal employees to attend any conference, including one in the United States.”

Earlier in the week, Coburn put a hold on the CR to allow lawmakers time to read the 587-page bill.

ASAE opposes limits on the number of federal employees who can attend outside meetings and conferences.

“ASAE understands Senator Coburn’s motives for offering Amendment 67, and we certainly support the need for fiscal accountability, but there are hundreds of conferences held across the country that warrant attendance by federal employees,” said Jim Clarke, CAE, senior vice president of public policy for ASAE. “Limiting the number of government employees who can attend a legitimate, educational conference hinders the dialogue between federal agencies and the industries they regulate.”

“We need to do everything we can to protect the mutually beneficial collaboration that occurs when government and the private sector meet face-to-face,” said ASAE President and CEO John H. Graham IV, CAE.

Update: The continuing resolution passed the Senate on March 20 by a 73-26 vote. It did not include Amendment 67. In a statement to supporters, ASAE said that the issue “demands continued attention” and could resurface in future spending legislation.


Katie Bascuas

By Katie Bascuas

Katie Bascuas is associate editor of Associations Now. MORE

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