Lame-Duck Congress Passes Anti-Privacy Database Bill


Lame-duck congressional sessions almost always endanger freedom, and sadly, this one was no exception. In a “lamer” than usual lame-duck move at the end of last week, the Senate passed H.R. 4174, the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act (FEPA). This move came without a hearing and with only a voice vote after no debate. Although the bill is defended as a way to use data to evaluate the effectiveness of government programs, it will result in an unprecedented assault on the privacy of American citizens.

Very similar to outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan’s handling of the final passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, this pre-Christmas Grinch-like maneuver — stealing the privacy of ordinary citizens — was done in the dark of night after the election and during holiday celebrations. Presumably the goal was to evade the opposition of grassroots groups, especially parent and education freedom organizations, which had been strongly opposing this bill since its initial proposal.

Last year, Ryan rammed his own FEPA bill through the House committee two days after introduction and then passed it off the floor with no real debate about the privacy implications. Citizen outrage forced the Senate to hold the bill in committee for thirteen months until after the election, when a slightly amended version was brought from committee and passed on December 19th with no hearing, no debate, and no recorded vote. The House then passed the amended version of the Senate bill, again after no debate, by a final vote of 356-17 — with only seventeen Republicans having the wisdom and courage to vote against it.


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