Carper, Portman Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Modernize Constituent Services

Bill would streamline casework process used by Congressional Offices to advocate for Constituents

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, Senators Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced The Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents (CASES) Act of 2019, which 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to electronically authorize congressional offices to engage with federal agencies on their behalf by modernizing an outdated provision of the Privacy Act of 1974.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 This bill would help to modernize an outdated and often inconvenient process that often creates unnecessary delays in issue resolution.

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 yesterday. 

“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.”

“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 am proud to co-sponsor this common-sense bill.”

“People don’t call their Members of Congress for fun,” said Representative Graves. “They often call because they need urgent help – their family members are stuck overseas, they can’t access medication their lives depend on, or some other emergency-type situation. The current written authorization required – because we haven’t updated a law written 45 years ago – is the equivalent of having to mail in a form to get an ambulance. That’s not okay. This bill will allow us to use technology the way that companies and organizations all over the world do every single day, putting this core function of your congressional offices online so that Americans can quickly get the level of service they deserve.”

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 federal agencies to establish a system for electronic submission of a privacy release form;
  • Require the Office of Management and Budget (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.