CRS Reports One Step Closer to Public Information
WASHINGTON, D.C. --- The U.S. House Committee on Appropriations today signed off Congressman Leonard Lance’s transparency effort to open Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports to the public. For over a century, the CRS has spent millions of taxpayer funds to compile research on public policy issues – only to make them available exclusively to lawmakers. Lance’s successful effort ends that practice.
“I thank Chairmen Frelinghuysen and Yoder and the House Appropriations Committee for supporting my effort to make Congressional Research Service reports available to the public. For too many years students, journalists and interested citizens have been at the mercy of third-party companies like Amazon that sell taxpayer-financed CRS reports online. These days are soon over. These reports not only belong to lawmakers to help craft policy, but to the taxpayers as well –who should be able to have access to these reports anytime, anywhere. This is a major victory for transparency and public information because soon CRS reports will be accessible on smartphones and tablets and in classrooms and newsrooms,” said Lance after the measure advanced.
The full House Committee on Appropriations ratified the work of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Subcommittee which included language in its fiscal year 2018 annual spending bill that directs the Congressional Research Service (CRS) to make public its 30,000 reports. Lance has led the legislative effort for this good government reform with Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL-05).
Every year thousands of non-confidential reports are compiled by the Congressional Research Service for use by Congressional offices. Lance has lobbied the Committee on Appropriations to include this directive in its funding of the Library of Congress, which oversees the CRS. Lance’s Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act directs the Congressional Research Service to publish its reports on govinfo.gov – a site managed by the Government Printing Office (GPO) that will serve as a one-stop shop for public information. The Committee on Appropriations legislation directs the Congressional Research Service to work in conjunction with the GPO to make its reports available to the public.
Information compiled by the Congressional Research Service is not publically available. Since 1914, reports have only been available for request through House and Senate offices and the bipartisan lawmakers say it is time to bring CRS into the 21st century. Requesting CRS reports through House and Senate offices is often cited as a throwback to the era of patronage jobs and hard-copy reports being too long and expensive for CRS to be available to send through the mail. Good government and transparency groups and tax payer advocacy organizations support allowing these reports to be publically available and interjecting nonpartisan, factual information into public discourse. The lawmakers also want to end the “black market” of CRS reports by which connected individuals and lobbyists obtain reports from contacts on Capitol Hill but everyday Americans are not able to easily view these reports. The lawmakers determined that GPO has the experience and infrastructure in place to host government documents for use by the general public in a user friendly format that CRS does not.
Congressional Research Belongs to the Public (The New York Times)
Give public access to Congressional research reports (Lance and Quigley, The Hill)
The publicly funded reports you can’t read (Samuelson, Politico)
15 reasons CRS reports should be public (Kosar, R Street)
Trying to crack open Congress’s confidential think tank after a century of secrecy (Rein, Washington Post)