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Bill would make Congressional Research Service studies public

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information    

Bill would make Congressional Research Service studies public

  • Four senators have proposed a resolution to put the research materials online, arguing that because public taxes fund the research it should be available to the public.

Feb. 28, 2003 — Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced a resolution Feb. 11 that would make the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service products accessible to the public via the Internet.

The CRS researches and reports on topics of interest to Congress at the request of members of Congress.

The resolution, introduced Feb. 11, would allow public access to much of the CRS information available to members of Congress. A similar resolution was proposed a few years ago.

Under the currently proposed legislation, the public would be able to access CRS documents such as Senate gift reports, issue briefs, and authorization and appropriations reports. The public would not have access to information deemed confidential by the director or head of a federal department or agency that provides information to CRS.

“It is often burdensome, difficult, and time-consuming for citizens to obtain access to public records of the United States Congress,” the resolution states.

During the same news conference where the Senate resolution was announced, The Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C., public interest organization, also announced its Feb.10 report calling for public access to both the CRS Web site and the Legislative Information System Web site.

POGO stated in its report that these sites arguably are the best sources of information regarding the legislative process of the United States, but are not available to the public. POGO reported that in order to prevent public access to its Web sites, CRS automatically redirects noncongressional inquires to the public Thomas (thomas.loc.gov) Web site, which is not as comprehensive. For example, CRS’s restricted LIS Web site contains up-to-the-minute floor and committee schedules not available on Thomas.

In its report titled “Congressional Research Service Products: Taxpayers Should Have Easy Access,” POGO pointed out that CRS had a budget of $81 million last year — all from taxes. Therefore, POGO recommended that CRS products be made more accessible to the citizenry.

The report also stated: “Congress has dictated since1952 that it has control and custody of CRS products and that those products may be released only by Congress.”

Previous attempts to make CRS research open to the public failed.

The current resolution has been referred to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.

(S. Res. 54) AT

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