With financial regulatory reform in the bag, President Obama briefly turns his attention to government spending reform on Thursday when he signs a bill requiring federal agencies and departments to crack down on improper payments.
The government misspent almost $110 billion in fiscal year 2009 by sending benefits checks sent to dead people, doling out fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid payments and overpaying government contractors.
But the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act that Obama will sign today requires agencies to spend at least $1 million on audits to identify potential overpayments, produce plans to cut such overpayment errors and sets penalties for agencies that fail to comply.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) and Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) moved relatively swiftly through both houses of Congress.
"Over the last year or so, we have had both feet on the accelerator in an effort to spur economic growth and job creation," Carper said. "Now it is the time to take one foot off as our economic recovery begins to take hold and put one foot on the brake to help slow the growth in federal spending. Fortunately, there is still some low-hanging fruit out there, wasteful federal spending."
The Carper-Murphy bill is a convenient legislative companion to the Obama administration's efforts to rein in excessive spending and bloated government operations through a series of executive orders and memos that established a "do not pay" list for fraudulent contractors, forced agencies to cut back on building costs and required improvements to the federal hiring process.
Of course signing this bill one day after enacting financial regulatory reform doesn't hurt, as it allows Obama to demonstrate he's putting the government's fiscal house in order while forcing Wall Street to do much the same.