Leahy Secures Legislation In The Omnibus Appropriations Bill To Make Taxpayer-Funded Congressional Research Reports Available To The Public

Senator Patrick Leahy secured a key transparency win in the Omnibus Appropriations Bill – which funds the federal government for the rest of this fiscal year – released Wednesday night.  The final bill includes a provision he added to make all non-confidential reports prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) freely available to public schools and libraries across the country.  That means they will be freely available online to individuals, schools and universities, researchers, and libraries.  CRS is Congress’s research arm.

A legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS issues or updates more than 3000 reports each year on topics ranging from the structure of government agencies, to summaries of legislative proposals and other policy analyses.  Current restrictions prevent these taxpayer-funded reports from being directly distributed to the public, but third-party for-profit companies often make them available to lobbyists for hefty subscription fees. 

The legislation will give the public the same access that members of Congress and their staffs have long had by directing that all non-confidential CRS reports be published online, for free, so that all Americans will have access to them equally.  The legislation will become law once the funding bill passes Congress and is signed by the President.

Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said:  “I have long championed transparency and an open government, and I am glad that we will finally give American citizens the same access to these taxpayer-funded reports that lobbyists and insiders enjoy.  In the wake of Sunshine Week, I am glad to see Congress recognize the importance of an open government by including this legislation in the omnibus.  Public CRS reports will give Vermonters access to the same information I use to make informed decisions in the Senate.  This will encourage and facilitate public engagement in the democratic process.”

Leahy and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) have worked together on this issue for 15 years, teaming up most recently in 2016 to introduce a bicameral and bipartisan bill that would have opened access to the reports.  As Appropriations Vice Chairman, and as an inductee to the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame, Leahy worked hard to get this bill included as part of the appropriations process, most recently including it in the fiscal year 2018 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill, which has become part of the Omnibus budget package.

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