12.12.14

Leahy REAX As House Leaves Town w/o Passing Bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act To Boost Govt. Transparency –

[Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) issued the following statement on Friday after the House failed to pass the bipartisan FOIA Improvement Act before adjourning for the year. The legislation authored by Leahy and Senator John Cornyn (R-Texas) was unanimously approved in the Senate earlier this week is supported by more than 70 groups that advocate for government transparency, as well as the Sunshine in Government Initiative.]

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),

Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,

On The FOIA Improvement Act of 2014

December 12, 2014

“I am deeply disappointed that last night the House failed to pass the FOIA Improvement Act. This bipartisan bill was reported unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, and it was the product of months of hard work by Senator Cornyn and me. Our bill is supported by more than 70 public interest groups that advocate for government transparency and it passed out of the Senate unanimously. I would think that members of the House Republican leadership, who have spent so much time on oversight of the Obama administration, would support the goal of making government more accountable and transparent. But instead of supporting this bill, they have chosen secrecy over sunlight. 

“The FOIA Improvement Act would codify what the President laid out in his historic executive order in 2009 by requiring Federal agencies to adopt a ‘Presumption of Openness’ when considering the release of government information under FOIA. This bill would require agencies to find a foreseeable harm if they want to withhold information from the public. Prioritizing the people’s interest in what their government is doing, our bill will reduce the overuse of exemptions to withhold information. Federal agencies have been required to apply this standard since 2009. They also used this same standard during President Clinton's terms in office. It was only during President George W. Bush's term of secrecy that this standard was rolled back. It appears the House leadership wants to return to that era. It should not matter who is in the White House, information about what their government is doing belongs to the people. 

“In a political climate as divided as this, I had hoped that we could come together in favor of something as fundamental to our democracy as the public’s right to know. That government transparency and openness would not just be the standard applied to the Obama Administration but what is applied to every future administration. The FOIA Improvement Act would have done just that.”   

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