07.27.17

Leahy Scores Public ‘Right To Know’ Win, To Open Access To Taxpayer-Funded Congressional Research Reports

Senator Patrick Leahy Thursday advanced legislation in the Senate Appropriations Committee to make all non-confidential reports prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) – Congress’s research arm – freely available to the public, schools and libraries across the country.

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. 

Leahy’s legislation, included in the fiscal year 2018 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill that was approved by the Appropriations Committee Thursday, 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, by the Government Publishing Office, so that all Americans can access them equally.  Leahy’s legislation now needs to be considered by the full Senate.

Leahy, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said: “A democracy depends on access to accurate information that informs a discussion of ideas. These reports are taxpayer funded and provide valuable information that should be made available to everyone -- not exclusively to lobbyists and DC insiders.  I’m glad we’re one step closer to the high school student in Milton writing a paper, or the small business owner in Rutland concerned about health care, having access to the same information that I have when I vote on the Senate Floor.”    

Leahy has worked for more than a decade to open public access to CRS reports. Leahy and Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) have worked together on this issue for 15 years, most recently teaming up in 2016 to introduce a bicameral and bipartisan bill that would have opened access to the reports.  Leahy has long been a leader on issues relating to the public’s right to know and in 1996 was inducted into the Freedom of Information Act Hall of Fame for his legislative successes in strengthening FOIA.  

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