The House next week will pass legislation aimed at ensuring people without vast financial resources can afford to sue the federal government.

In 1980, Congress passed the Equal Access to Justice Act, which was meant to help veterans, retirees and others afford the high cost of suing the government. The financing mechanism was simple: the federal agency whose actions gave rise to the lawsuit helped pay for the cost of the lawsuit.

But in 1995, Congress eliminated a requirement that agencies keep track of payments they were making under the law. Twenty years later, Republicans and Democrats say that change is making it impossible to tell whether agencies are paying people back for lawsuits against them, and if so, how much.

Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., is the lead sponsor of the Open Book on Equal Justice Act. His bill would require an annual report on how much agencies are paying out to people who need help financing their lawsuits, and Collins said the change is needed to make sure the law is working.

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