The Department of Government
The Department of Government

Policy Agendas Project Mined in Senate Report

Tue, December 6, 2011

Tom Coburn, a Republican Senator from Oklahoma and member of the Senate Finance Committee, has issued a major investigative report utilizing data drawn from the Policy Agendas Project, which is housed in The University of Texas at Austin Department of Government.

The report, “Shooting the Messenger: Congress Targets the Taxpayers’ Watchdog,” concludes that the federal budget continues rising while the number of congressional hearings declines, meaning Congress is neglecting its oversight responsibility and the budget of the Government Accountability Office should therefore be protected from cuts.

Bryan Jones, the Government Department’s J. J. "Jake" Pickle Regents Chair in Congressional Studies and co-founder of the Policy Agendas Project says, “Senator Coburn has issued an important report. Relying in part on data from the Policy Agendas Project, the report documents the decline of Congress’s ability to oversee government programs, even as government has grown substantially. We are pleased that Senator Coburn used the Project to aid in making that case.”

Coburn’s report cites and graphs Policy Agendas Project data showing that in 1979-80 there were nearly 4,000 congressional hearings, but today the number of hearings is often closer to 2,500 and has been in steady decline. The report then cites and graphs the Project’s federal budget data to show that the drop in hearing activity runs in contrast to the steadily increasing federal budget and rising need for oversight.

Frank Baumgartner, political science professor at the University of North Carolina and co-founder of the Policy Agendas Projects says, “When we started the Project one of our ideas was that it should be useful to many audiences, ranging from undergraduate students seeking a way to get their hands dirty with some original research about the history of U.S. government activities in a field of interest, to the broader scholarly community, and beyond. Because the project provides a basic research infrastructure, we do not know how it might be used. But seeing it being used by the very people (those in Congress) about whom it reports certainly suggests that they see the value of it, and that is indeed gratifying.”

Following its release, the report and the Policy Agendas Project were cited in numerous media outlets, including “Roll Call” and “Huffington Post.”

The report can be accessed through Senator Coburn’s website.

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