10.25.19

Bipartisan Trio Of Leahy, Grassley And Cornyn Tout Bipartisan Process Significantly Improving Interior Dept.’s FOIA Regulations

. . . Grassley, Leahy, Cornyn Tout Bipartisan Process Significantly Improving Interior Dept.’s FOIA Regulations

WASHINGTON (FRIDAY, Oct. 25, 2019) – A bipartisan trio of key senators -- Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) – Friday sent a letter to Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) David Bernhardt expressing appreciation for the changes reflected in the agency’s final rule, published today, updating its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) policies.

In March, the senators, alongside the late Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Representative Elijah Cummings, wrote to Secretary Bernhardt to express significant concerns with DOI’s proposed FOIA rule, which appeared to restrict public access to records and unnecessarily delay the processing of FOIA requests.  Their letter also highlights the constructive dialogue and responsiveness that DOI provided since the members’ March letter.

They wrote:  “The final rule appears to more faithfully align with FOIA’s twin goals of transparency and openness. While our offices will remain vigilant in our oversight — of all agencies’ FOIA policies under any administration — we sincerely appreciate the efforts your Department took to keep Congress informed of the final rule’s development.  Moreover, we were pleased that the Department heard our concerns with the proposed rule and issued a final rule that seeks to directly address those concerns.”

Text of the letter follows:

 

October 25, 2019

 

The Honorable David Bernhardt

Secretary

U.S. Department of the Interior

1849 C Street, NW

Washington, DC 20240

 

Dear Secretary Bernhardt,

In March of this year, we sent your Department a bipartisan, bicameral letter to express significant concerns with the Department of Interior’s proposed update to its Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Act regulations.[1] We write today to express appreciation for the changes reflected in the Department’s finalized rule,[2] as well as for the constructive dialogue that occurred between the Department and our offices since our initial letter.

The final rule appears to more faithfully align with FOIA’s twin goals of transparency and openness. While our offices will remain vigilant in our oversight—of all agencies’ FOIA policies under any administration—we sincerely appreciate the efforts your Department took to keep Congress informed of the final rule’s development. Moreover, we were pleased that the Department heard our concerns with the proposed rule and issued a final rule that seeks to directly address those concerns.

Lastly, we note that our March letter, and the inter-branch dialogue that followed, was initiated by the late Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Representative Elijah Cummings, whose legacy in improving government transparency is widely respected. It’s in his spirit and dedication to accountability that we hope other agencies, going forward, will provide the same level of dialogue and responsiveness as your Department has in this process. The American people, after all, are best served when Congress and the Executive Branch work together and across party lines to protect their interests.

Respectfully,

Charles E. Grassley 

United States Senator

 

Patrick Leahy

United States Senator 

 

John Cornyn

United States Senator

 

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[1] Department of the Interior, Freedom of Information Act Regulations, 83 Fed. Reg. 67175 (Dec. 28, 2018) (proposed rule) available at https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2018-12-28/pdf/2018-27561.pdf.

[2] Department of the Interior, Freedom of Information Act Regulations, Docket No. DOI-2018-0017 (Oct. 24, 2019) (final rule) available at https://www.doi.gov/sites/doi.gov/files/uploads/signed-foia-finalrule102419.pdf.

 

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