Bipartisan Carper-Portman Bill to Modernize Constituent Services Advances Out of Committee Unanimously

Legislation would make it easier, more efficient for constituents to interact with their elected representatives

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed the bipartisan Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents (CASES) Act of  2019. The bill, introduced by Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), would update and streamline the casework privacy release form process used by congressional offices to assist constituents in contacting federal agencies. The bill gives constituents the option to electronically authorize congressional offices to engage with federal agencies on their behalf by modernizing an outdated provision of the Privacy Act of 1974. Under current law, Members of Congress are required to obtain written authorization from a constituent before taking action to resolve the individual’s case. This bill would help to modernize an outdated and often inconvenient process that often creates unnecessary delays in issue resolution.

Earlier this year, the companion bill in the House of Representatives, introduced by Representatives Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass) and Same Graves (R-Mo.), passed the House by a margin of 379-0. 

“As elected officials, making sure that we can help our constituents navigate the federal government easily and in a timely way is one of our most important responsibilities,” said Senator Carper. “When the American taxpayers we represent need assistance with Social Security, Medicare, Veteran Affairs or any other federal agency, they should be able to get the help and information they need quickly and in a straightforward manner. This bipartisan, bicameral bill helps to ensure that elected officials like myself can be even more effective advocates for our constituents by modernizing our constituent services process. With today’s vote, we are one step closer to getting this common sense, bipartisan bill signed into law, and I thank my colleague Senator Portman for his leadership on this issue.”

“Each year, thousands of Ohioans contact my office for help resolving issues with federal agencies,” said Senator Portman. “The CASES Act will make it easier for them and all Americans to interact with their government when they need help, and it will help members of Congress better serve their constituents. I applaud the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for approving this common-sense bill and hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support it when it comes to the Senate floor.”

The CASES Act would streamline the process to allow people to grant congressional offices electronic authorization, while retaining the option of a paper submission. It would also direct the Trump Administration to develop a streamlined process across all federal agencies while ensuring the necessary privacy protections stay intact.

Specifically, the bill would:

  • Require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to direct federal agencies to establish a system for electronic submission of a privacy release form;
  • Require OMB to establish a uniform release form to be used across the agencies; and
  • Require OMB to consider and develop authentication procedures to ensure accuracy and privacy protections remain in place through the process.