A group of House Democrats wants to make sure their proposal to give the Technology Modernization Fund a billion-dollar injection makes the cut in the next round of pandemic relief legislation.
The 11 Democrats penned a letter to House leadership and appropriators requesting a minimum of $1 billion for the TMF as they meet with Senate leaders to negotiate the next coronavirus relief bill. Signees include top Hill tech advocates Gerry Connolly of Virginia, Ro Khanna of California, Robin Kelly of Illinois and Rhode Island’s Jim Langevin.
The TMF was created as a central pot of appropriations that agencies can apply for to fund impactful modernization projects under the stipulation that they’ll pay it back within five years. In the letter, the House Democrats argue the “robust funding” is vital in enabling “federal agencies to better respond to the coronavirus pandemic and future national emergencies as well as meet the urgent economic needs of American families.”
“The fate of the world’s largest economy and millions of American households rely on the ability of government IT systems to deliver in an emergency,” says the letter. “In many respects, those IT systems have not delivered during the pandemic and that should galvanize us all to action.”
As the letter notes, the billion-dollar request isn’t new — it was included in the House’s HEROES Act, which was passed May 15 but never received Senate consideration. And before that, the House proposed in its initial coronavirus relief package in March a $3 billion TMF appropriation — a measure that was ultimately cut in negotiations with the Senate on that bill.
The House has historically been more bullish on funding the TMF, while the Senate often proposes to zero it out or fund it at a small fraction of the administration’s initial request. Some senators have expressed that they just don’t think there’s enough proof in the program, while others argue that the money must be thought of as “an investment, not an expenditure.”
The 11 lawmakers aren’t the only ones fighting for the TMF’s funding. A handful of tech associations also recently called for the Senate to prioritize TMF money in the next relief package.
Matthew Cornelius, executive director for the Alliance for Digital Innovation, testified on Capitol Hill earlier this week, calling the $150 million the TMF got in the past three years “wildly inappropriate.”
Connolly, who held Monday’s hearing, agreed. The last TMF appropriation of $25 million was “simply meaningless,” he said.
The White House and Senate Republicans failed to reach an agreement Thursday on a plan to offer Democrats in the House, pushing negotiations on the relief bill back to at least next week.