After holds dropped, Senate clears database bill

Legislation to create a central database that will track all sorts of federal spending passed the Senate last night, ending a dizzying turn of events in which a handful of senators placed and removed opposition to the bill since it cleared a committee in late July.

The bill, S 2590, passed unanimously despite news that another unnamed senator placed a hold'which would prevent it from coming to the floor for a vote'last week.

Under the bill, OMB must develop a public, searchable database with information on federal contracts, subcontracts, grants, subgrants, loans and other financial assistance.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the bill's chief sponsor, applauded the vote.

'This bill is a small but significant step toward changing the culture in Washington,' Coburn said. 'Only by fostering a culture of openness, transparency and accountability will Congress come together to address the mounting fiscal challenges that threaten our future prosperity.'

The bill's passage came after several weeks of negotiations with Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Robert Byrd (D-W.Va), who both placed holds on the bill shortly after it cleared the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in late July.

Stevens and Byrd objected to moving the bill without debate and both lawmakers dropped their holds after meeting with Coburn's staff late last week.

Still, the bill was not yet out of the woods as congressional sources said that as of yesterday evening, an unnamed Democrat still had a hold on the bill. This hold was apparently removed, though, in time for the Senate to clear it late last night.

The bill now moves to the House, which passed similar legislation earlier this year calling for a database tracking federal grant awards.

Staff members for Reps. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the Government Reform Committee, and majority whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) are talking with Coburn's office to seek consensus on their legislation, Government Reform Committee officials said.

OMB director Rob Portman praised the Senate action as well.

'The Administration is committed to the goals of these two measures, and I look forward to working with the House and Senate to enact a bill that accomplishes them,' he said.

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