In a small victory for efficiency in government, Congress has voted to kill the Dog and Cat Fur Protection report.
On Wednesday evening, the House voted 382 to 0 to approve a bill that would cancel 48 official reports that Congress requires from various federal agencies. These are some of the most useless pieces of paperwork in Washington: legally required written updates, which often pile up unread on desks in a distracted Congress.
The same bill passed the Senate in September. Now it goes to President Obama for his signature.
If the bill becomes law, it will be a victory for the handful of legislators who have focused on reining in such reports. But not a very big victory.
This bill would eliminate about 1 percent of the total.
“One small step,” said Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), who helped lead the effort. “It shouldn’t be this hard.”
Among the reports to be eliminated is the one on dog and cat fur protection, which was featured in The Post’s story. That report dates from 2000, a time when Congress was worried about illicit imports of coats made with dog and cat fur. So it passed a law requiring U.S. Customs and Border Protection to produce an annual report on its efforts to identify and seize the items.
After that, the problem abated. Congress lost interest.
But the law stayed on the books.
So the government continued to produce the fur report — an effort that often involved 15 federal employees from six different offices. Upon completion, the report was sent to seven committees on Capitol Hill. None of them found it useful.
The bill that passed the House on Wednesday would eliminate other largely useless reports. They include an annual summary of the effects of the Andean Trade Preference Act of 1991 and a Veterans Affairs report on health-care purchases, which had reported no dramatic changes in 23 years.
But the true jewel of the bunch might be a report . . . on reports. Since 2009, the Corporation for National and Community Service had been required to send Congress a report on the reports from other agencies.
Legislators estimate that the bill could save at least $1 million over five years, as federal workers turn to more useful tasks. In the brief House debate on Wednesday, oversight committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said he wanted to “make sure that this is an annual event, until we reach a point where there are zero pieces of reports coming to the Congress that are unread, unused or unnecessary.”
But that won’t be easy. This bill itself was proof of that.
Drafting the bill began in late 2012, when the Obama administration released a list of 269 reports it thought were not useful — or, at least, not useful enough to justify the time spent on them.
But on Capitol Hill, many committees objected to the idea of losing all the reports that were submitted to them. So in the end, legislators settled on a list of 48 to cancel.
Already, however, some legislators are pushing to further reduce the number of reports.
On Thursday, Warner and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), introduced a Senate bill that would eliminate 58 more.
And in the House, new Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has said he also wants to make sure future reports do not become eternal burdens on the bureaucracy. In a memo to colleagues last month, McCarthy said he wanted to add legal “sunsets” to any new reports, so that they would expire after a few years.
“We can save taxpayer money and thousands of hours of time by sunsetting these requirements,” McCarthy wrote. He cited the fur report as an example of what lawmakers were trying to prevent.