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Senate, House Pass Bills Limiting Federal Conference Spending

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In the wake of revelations of lavish spending by the federal General Services Administration (GSA), both chambers of Congress are agreeing to cap what federal agencies can spend on conferences.

It's rare for lawmakers in both parties and chambers to agree on anything. But lawmakers across Capitol Hill were outraged to learn the GSA hosted a lavish event in Las Vegas that cost taxpayers more than $800,000. Now, both chambers of Congress have passed bills banning agencies from spending more than $500,000 on a conference. 

Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) helped his chamber approve the rule this week.

"I think there's got to be a clear understanding that a public agency cannot have lavish conferences or giveaways or things like that. So I think it's the right thing to do," Cardin says.

As for whether the problem of lavish spending goes beyond the GSA, Cardin says he doesn't think so. 

"We want to see how other agencies are responding," he says. "There's no information that we've had a widespread problem, but I think this amendment makes it clear the standards that have to be met."

The Senate bill will have to be melded with a House-passed version that also includes new reporting requirements for agencies. Government watchdog groups say the legislation will increase transparency through a new board created to oversee federal spending. 

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