03.05.19

Leahy, Cummings, Grassley And Cornyn Raise Concerns About The Interior Department's Proposed Rule That Would Weaken FOIA

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations, on Tuesday joined Representative Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas), member of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, in sending a letter to Acting Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) David Bernhardt expressing serious concerns with a proposed Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) rule that would undermine the letter and spirit of FOIA.

Leahy said:  “This is a clear attempt to evade transparency.  In 2016, when we passed the FOIA Improvement Act into law, Congress made it crystal clear that agencies shall not deny or delay FOIA requests for bureaucratic reasons unrelated to the narrow, core interests being protected by statutory exemptions to FOIA.  Yet this proposed rule does precisely that.  By providing the Interior Department a myriad reasons to deny or simply ignore requests from journalists, lawyers, and citizens seeking information about the workings of our government, this proposed rule would do great harm to our nation’s premier transparency law. It must be discarded immediately.”

Leahy, Grassley, and Cornyn have long been the leading champions of FOIA and transparency in the Senate, partnering to write and enact several laws that have strengthened the nation’s premier law that protects the public’s right to know.

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote:  “The proposed rule appears to restrict public access to DOI’s records and delay the processing of FOIA requests in violation of the letter and spirit of FOIA. The American people have the right to access information from DOI, and the proposed rule needlessly encroaches on that right. . . . Rather than clarifying DOI’s FOIA process, the proposed rule would make the process more confusing and potentially expose it to politicization and unnecessary litigation. In the spirit of transparency and advancing the public’s right to know, we urge you to reconsider the proposed rule.”

Click here to read today’s letter.

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