'Cleaning the Gunk' out of Washington With Transparency and Accountability

President Obama on Tuesday called on all members of Congress to post their schedules online so their constituents would know who they're meeting with.

Montanans won't find this suggestion radical. On my first day as their Senator, I became the first member of Congress to post my daily public schedule on my website. I update it every day.

Accountability goes hand-in-hand with transparency--and Washington needs more of both. That's why I introduced two bills this week to boost accountability and shine more sunlight on government.

On Wednesday, I teamed up with a bipartisan group of Senators to introduce the Congressional Pay Raise Prevention Act. Our legislation (HERE) would require all members of Congress to permanently give up automatic yearly pay raises.

Under current law, members of Congress automatically receive yearly cost-of-living pay increases unless we vote to stop them.

When I got to the Senate, Congress had spent a decade giving themselves pay raises every year, while hardworking, middle-class Montanans struggled to make ends meet. Most folks don't have the luxury of automatic pay raises--and Congress ought to lead by example.

On Thursday, I introduced a bill to require U.S. Senate campaign committees to file financial disclosure reports online.

Senate campaign committees are the only federal political committees not required to file their financial disclosure reports directly with the Federal Elections Commission. That means it can take up to a month for Senate campaign disclosures to be made available online to the public.

By law, the public has a right to know who's funding the political campaigns of their leaders. But it's not real transparency when folks have to wait up to a month to get that information. My bipartisan Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act (HERE.) closes that loophole so that folks can hold their leaders accountable in a meaningful way.

And just last night, I voted along with the vast majority of my Senate colleagues to ban "secret holds," which allow one Senator to singlehandedly bring the Senate's work to a grinding halt without even revealing who they are or their objections. Such secrecy just doesn't pass the smell test in Montana. And while it's a shame we weren't able to reform the rules to require "talking filibusters" when folks want to block legislation, I'm glad we're finally cleaning the gunk out of the gears of the Senate so we can focus on real debate.

I want to hear what you think. Visit my facebook page and let me know what else we can do to keep boosting transparency in government. I'm going to keep fighting hard to make the Senate look more like Montana, with open and accountable government.

Montanans, and folks across the country, deserve no less.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester is a third generation family farmer from Big Sandy, Mont. He is the author of the Public Online Information Act.