Vote Set on CRS Reports

House Legislative Branch Appropriators Will Vote Tomorrow on Legislation To Release All Non-Confidential CRS Reports to the Public

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:

  • Daniel Schuman, policy director, Demand Progress, 202-577-6100, [email protected]
  • Dave Bahr, communications manager, R Street Institute, 202-550-5451, [email protected]
  • CJ Grover, communications director, the Honorable Kevin Yoder, 202-225-2865, [email protected]

Today House Legislative Branch Appropriators announced they will vote tomorrow to “allow public access to all non-confidential CRS reports” as part of the FY 2018 Legislative Branch Appropriations bill. The measure is expected to be favorably reported by the subcommittee.

Public access to the reports, which provide non-partisan analysis of important policy issues before Congress, was most recently requested by a bipartisan group of 40 nonprofit organizations and 25 former CRS employees with a combined 570 years tenure at the agency. Civil society organizations have been requesting public access for 20 years.

Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress–a progressive grassroots organization with 2 million members–and a former legislative attorney for CRS, praised the move:

“After two decades of requests from the public, the House of Representatives is poised to take a major step towards increasing congressional transparency through release of Congressional Research Service reports to the public, thanks to the leadership of legislative branch appropriations subcommittee Chairman Kevin Yoder (R-KS) and Ranking Member Tim Ryan (R-OH) and the persistent advocacy of Reps. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Mike Quigley (D-IL).

These nonpartisan reports, authored by ‘Congress’s think tank,’ explain important policy issues considered by Congress in language anyone can understand. They should be equitably available to everyone so we all can be better informed in this era of increasing citizen activism and public engagement in the policy making process.”

Kevin Kosar, vice president for policy at the R Street Institute, a libertarian think tank, and a former analyst and manager at CRS, applauded the change:

“I spent 11 years at CRS as an analyst and manager, and this change is way overdue. I am very glad Congress has moved to end the inequitable access to these nonpartisan reports. The public has a right to read them, and CRS analysts need to be free from the gotcha-trap that current policy puts them in.”

Chairman Kevin Yoder of the House Legislative Branch Appropriations said:

“It’s more important now than ever that Americans have access to clear-cut, accurate information on the issues being debated in the halls of Congress. CRS reports are a great non-partisan resource put together at the taxpayers’ expense. It’s the fair and right thing to do to let the public have access to them.”

While CRS reports often become publicly available when they are released by individual congressional offices to constituents or published as committee prints or in committee reports, there is no central repository for the reports. Instead, they are collected by private businesses that sell access to lobbyists and other insiders.

We at Demand Progress publish more than 8,700 reports online in partnership with the R Street Institute at everycrsreport.com, at no cost for the public, but there is no guarantee we will be able to maintain the service. Everyone should be able to obtain the reports from an official source so they know they have the most recent version and that it has not been altered in any way. We explain why that’s important here.

Reps. Yoder and Ryan came together on a bipartisan basis to address this important issue, including holding a public hearing where Daniel Schuman and Kevin Kosar submitted testimony on public access to the reports. We applaud Reps. Yoder and Ryan for making this possible.

Reps. Lance and Quigley have long championed public access to the reports in the House of Representatives, and recently reintroduced legislation, H.R. 2335, to require their public availability. Rep. Quigley offered an amendment before the Appropriations Committee last year. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced companion legislation last Congress and are likely to reintroduce.

The Legislative Branch Appropriations subcommittee will meet Friday at 10 a.m. in HT-2.

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