House proposal would make CRS reports available online

Tools

A proposed House resolution would make Congressional Research Service reports publicly accessible and searchable online.

The resolution (H. Res. 727) is co-sponsored by Reps. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.) and Mike Quigley (D-Ill.); Lance introduced it on July 10 and it was referred to the House Administration Committee. A spokeswoman for the committee said staffers are reviewing it.

"American taxpayers spend more than $100 million a year supporting the work of the Congressional Research Service," said Lance in a prepared statement. It is good policy, he added, to allow public access to those taxpayer-funded reports. The resolution would only affect reports CRS generally makes available to Capitol Hill lawmakers and staffers; confidential research requests would remain so.

The resolution only requires approval by the House to come into effect, notes Sunlight Foundation policy counsel Daniel Schuman in a blog post.

Many of the reports are routinely leaked to non-profit organizations including the Federation of American Scientists and OpenCRS, which post them online, but "by the time they become publicly available, the reports can become outdated, especially when an issue is moving quickly in Congress," Schuman says.

CRS officials have said (.pdf) Congress has barred public access to the reports in order to ensure that the report authors may freely explore issues, but Schuman argues that access control was imposed during the 1950s from a concern about the costs of printing and mailing the reports and not their confidentiality.

For more:
- go to the THOMAS page for H. Res. 727
- read Schuman's blog post

Related Articles:
Transparency group decries legislative data bulk download prohibition 
Term 'open government' more murky than transparent, says paper 
Transparency groups demand more from National Action Plan for open government