CASES Act Passes Unanimously Out of Senate Committee

Bipartisan legislation aimed at improving constituent services passed unanimously out of committee in the Senate this week. The Creating Advanced Streamlined Electronic Services for Constituents (CASES) Act of 2019 seeks to streamline the process by which constituents, congressional offices, and agencies interact by modernizing provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974.

The legislation was introduced in February by Senators Tom Carper (D-DE) and Rob Portman (R-OH). Companion legislation in the House, introduced by Representatives Joe Kennedy (D-MA) and Sam Graves (R-MO), passed by a vote of 379-0.

The legislation aims to streamline the process for members of Congress to engage with federal agencies on behalf of constituents.

Under current law, members of Congress require written authorization from a constituent before discussing a case with a federal agency involved in the grievance. In a statement released this week, Carper described this provision as outdated and inconvenient.

Under the CASES Act, congressional offices would be able to use an electronic system to receive permission from constituents to assess their case with an agency. Paper authorization systems would still be available.

To retain privacy protection, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would direct federal agencies to establish an electronic system for submitted privacy release forms, and OMB would then create a uniform release form to be used across agencies and Congressional offices.

“As elected officials, making sure that we can help our constituents navigate the federal government easily and in a timely way is one of our most important responsibilities,” said Senator Carper. “When the American taxpayers we represent need assistance with Social Security, Medicare, Veteran Affairs or any other federal agency, they should be able to get the help and information they need quickly and in a straightforward manner.”

With companion legislation already having passed the House, lawmakers believe this could be a legislative victory in the upcoming weeks.

“Each year, thousands of Ohioans contact my office for help resolving issues with federal agencies,” said Senator Portman in the joint release with Carper’s office. “The CASES Act will make it easier for them and all Americans to interact with their government when they need help, and it will help members of Congress better serve their constituents. I applaud the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for approving this common-sense bill and hope my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will support it when it comes to the Senate floor.”

Posted in From the Hill

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