[Congressional Record Volume 162, Number 35 (Thursday, March 3, 2016)]
[Senate]
[Pages S1279-S1281]




          STATEMENTS ON INTRODUCED BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS

      By Mr. LEAHY (for himself and Mr. McCain):
  S. 2639. A bill to direct the Director of the Government Publishing 
Office to provide members of the public with Internet access to 
Congressional Research Service reports, and for other purposes; to the 
Committee on Rules and Administration.
  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, Senator McCain and I are introducing 
bipartisan, bicameral legislation to make reports published by the 
Congressional Research Service, CRS, available to the American public 
online. This legislation will open up an invaluable, taxpayer-funded 
resource for use by schools, universities, researchers, libraries, and 
individuals across the country.
  The CRS was founded more than 100 years ago to provide comprehensive, 
non-partisan information on vital issues affecting national policy. In 
2015, CRS issued over 1200 new reports and updated almost 2500 existing 
products, on matters ranging from the structure of government agencies, 
to summaries of legislative proposals, foreign policy primers, and 
everything in between. These reports are posted on an internal website 
for use by Members of Congress and their staff, but they are not 
distributed directly to the public. In an informal arrangement that is 
all too familiar in Washington, this unnecessary restriction has 
created a cottage industry of services that make copies of the reports 
available to lobbyists for a subscription fee. Schools and the general 
public cannot access them, nor do readers know whether the scattering 
of CRS reports they can find online through third-party websites are 
authentic, complete, or up-to-date. That's not very `public' and does 
nothing for the average citizen in Vermont or the rest of the country 
who does not have easy access to Washington.
  Our bipartisan, bicameral legislation stops this unequal access by 
providing for CRS Reports to be published online in a comprehensive 
free, and searchable database on the website of the Government 
Publishing Office, GPO. This straightforward but important step has 
long been called for by libraries, educators, and public interest 
groups across the country. It is also supported by retired and former 
CRS employees, who note that ``CRS reports are widely available on 
Capitol Hill to staff and lobbyists alike, are released with no 
expectation of confidentiality, and could be of immense value to the 
general public.''
  The century-old CRS was founded on the principles of nonpartisanship 
and respect for accurate, thoughtful information to inform the policy 
conversations of the day. It is a testament to the best ideals of 
Congress, and all Americans should benefit from the work and resources 
it provides. When I think of my grandchildren working on research 
reports for school, I want them to have access to this resource. I also 
want the American people to know what information their Members of 
Congress are receiving on leading policy issues of the day.
  The legislation includes several important measures--responsive to 
concerns from CRS--to ensure that only appropriate materials are shared 
online. It makes clear that the GPO website will include only final, 
non-confidential CRS Reports and similar written, non-confidential CRS 
products that are intended for general Congressional distribution. It 
firmly excludes from publication any memoranda or other custom 
materials that CRS provides in response to a research request from an 
individual Member of Congress. The bill allows for identifying 
information for individual CRS researchers to be redacted so that CRS, 
not individual staffers, is the named author of a work. It also 
requires the inclusion of a written notification in all CRS Reports to 
explain that the materials were prepared by CRS for use by Congress, 
and should not be relied upon for purposes other than public 
understanding of information that has been provided by CRS to Members 
of Congress in connection with CRS's institutional role.
  This is an exciting time for the Library of Congress and its 
divisions such as CRS. For the first time since 1987, the President has 
nominated, and I hope the Senate Rules Committee will soon consider, a 
new Librarian of Congress to lead one of the largest libraries in the 
world. As we move further into the digital age, now is an important 
moment to consider the promise of this great American institution and 
the resources it provides.
  I thank Senator McCain for his long partnership with me on this 
effort, as well as Representatives Lance and Quigley who today are 
introducing bipartisan companion legislation in the House. I hope 
members will join us in supporting this straightforward, but important, 
step to make CRS reports available to the public so that all Americans 
may enjoy this invaluable resource equally.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that letters of support be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:
                                                 October 22, 2015.
       Dear Chairman Blunt, Chairman Capito, Chairman Miller, 
     Chairman Graves, Ranking Member Schumer, Ranking Member 
     Schatz, Ranking Member Brady, Ranking Member Wasserman 
     Schultz, and Vice Chairman Harper: We are former employees of 
     the Congressional Research Service (CRS), with more than a 
     collective five hundred years with the agency. We write in 
     strong support of timely, comprehensive free public access to 
     CRS reports. In doing so, we distinguish between CRS reports, 
     which are non-confidential, and other CRS products, such as 
     memoranda, which are confidential.
       CRS plays a vital role in our legislative process by 
     informing lawmakers and staff about important policy issues. 
     To that end, nothing should impair CRS's ability to provide 
     confidential support to members of Congress, such as through 
     briefings and confidential memoranda. Nor should Congress 
     take any steps to weaken the Constitutionally-protected 
     status of CRS's work product. In contrast, CRS reports are 
     widely available on Capitol Hill to staff and lobbyists 
     alike, are released with no expectation of confidentiality, 
     and could be of immense value to the general public.
       Longstanding congressional policy allows Members and 
     committees to distribute CRS products to the public, which 
     they do in a variety of ways. In addition, CRS provides 
     reports upon request to the judicial branch, to journalists, 
     and to the executive branch, which often publishes them on 
     agency websites. Insiders with relationships to congressional 
     staff can easily obtain the reports, and well-resourced 
     groups pay for access from third-party subscription services. 
     Members of the public, however, can freely access only a 
     subset of CRS reports, usually via third parties.
       It is difficult for the public to know the scope of CRS 
     products they could obtain from Congress. A Google search 
     returned over 27,000 products including 4,260 hosted on .gov 
     domains, but there is no way to know if those documents are 
     up to date, whether the search is comprehensive, or when the 
     documents might disappear from view.

[[Page S1280]]

       We believe Congress should provide a central online source 
     for timely public access to CRS reports. That would place all 
     members of the public on an equal footing to one another with 
     respect to access. It would resolve concerns around public 
     and congressional use of the most up-to-date version. 
     Additionally, it would ensure the public can verify it is 
     using an authentic version. And it would diminish requests to 
     analysts to provide a copy of the most recent report. Other 
     legislative support agencies, i.e., the Congressional Budget 
     Office and the Government Accountability Office, publish non-
     confidential reports on their websites as a matter of course. 
     Doing so does not appear to harm their ability to perform 
     their mission for Congress.
       We thank you for the opportunity to share our thoughts on 
     implementing full public access to non-confidential CRS 
     reports. If you wish to discuss this further, please contact 
     Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress policy director, at 
     [email protected], or Kevin Kosar, R Street Institute 
     senior fellow and governance director, at [email protected] 
     Thank you for your consideration of this matter.
           With best regards,
         Henry Cohen, George Costello, Heather Durkin, Gregg 
           Esenwein, Louis Fisher, Peggy Garvin, Bernie Gelb, 
           Jeffrey C. Griffith, Pamela Hairston, Glennon J. 
           Harrison, Kevin Holland, Thomas Hungerford, W. Jackson, 
           Kevin Kosar, Jon Medalia, Elizabeth Palmer, Harold 
           Relyea, Morton Rosenberg, Daniel Schuman, Christine 
           Scott, Sherry Shapiro, Nye Stevens.
                                  ____

                                                November 12, 2015.
       Dear Chairman Blunt, Chairman Miller, Ranking Member 
     Schumer, Ranking Member Brady, and Vice Chairman Harper: We 
     write in support of expanded public access to Congressional 
     Research Service (CRS) reports. Longstanding congressional 
     policy allows Members and committees to use their websites to 
     disseminate CRS products to the public, although CRS itself 
     may not engage in direct public dissemination. This results 
     in a disheartening inequity. Insiders with Capitol Hill 
     connections can easily obtain CRS reports from any of the 
     20,000 congressional staffers and well-resourced groups can 
     pay for access from subscription services. However, members 
     of the public can access only a small subset of CRS reports 
     that are posted on an assortment of not-for-profit websites 
     on an intermittent basis. Now is the time for a systematic 
     solution that provides timely, comprehensive free public 
     access to and preservation of non-confidential reports while 
     protecting confidential communications between CRS and 
     Members and committees of Congress.
       CRS reports--not to be confused with confidential CRS 
     memoranda and other products--play a critical role in our 
     legislative process by informing lawmakers and staff about 
     the important issues of the day. The public should have the 
     same access to information. In 2014 CRS completed over 1,000 
     new reports and updated over 2,500 existing products. (CRS 
     also produced nearly 3,000 confidential memoranda.)
       Our interest in free public access to non-confidential CRS 
     reports illustrates the esteem in which the agency is held. 
     CRS reports are regularly requested by members of the public 
     and are frequently cited by the courts and the media. For 
     example, over the last decade CRS reports were cited in 190 
     federal court opinions, including 64 at the appellate level. 
     Over the same time period, CRS reports were cited 67 times in 
     the Washington Post and 45 times the New York Times. CRS 
     reports often are published in the record of legislative 
     proceedings.
       Taxpayers provide more than $100 million annually in 
     support of CRS, and yet members of the public often must look 
     to private companies for consistent access. Some citizens are 
     priced out of these services, resulting in inequitable access 
     to information about government activity that is produced at 
     public expense.
       In fact, while CRS generates a list of all the reports it 
     has issued over the previous year, it silently redacts that 
     information from the public-facing version of its annual 
     report, making it difficult for the public to even know the 
     scope of CRS products they could obtain from Congress. A 
     Google search returned over 27,000 reports including 4,260 
     hosted on .gov domains, but there is no way to know if those 
     documents are up to date, what might be missing, or when they 
     might disappear from view.
       Comprehensive free public access to non-confidential CRS 
     reports would place the reports in line with publications by 
     other legislative support agencies in the United States and 
     around the globe. The Government Accountability Office, the 
     Congressional Budget Office, the Law Library of Congress, and 
     85% of G-20 countries whose parliaments have subject matter 
     experts routinely make reports available to the public.
       We hasten to emphasize that we are not calling for public 
     access to CRS products that should be kept confidential or 
     are distributed only to a small network on Capitol Hill. 
     Memoranda produced at the request of a Member or committee 
     and provided to an office in direct response to a request 
     should remain confidential unless the office itself chooses 
     to release the report. By comparison, we believe no such 
     protection should attach to reports typically published on 
     CRS' internal website or otherwise widely disseminated.
       We value the work of CRS and in no way wish to impede its 
     ability to serve Congress. CRS reports already undergo 
     multiple levels of administrative review to ensure they are 
     accurate, non-partisan, balanced, and well-written. Authors 
     of every CRS product are aware of the likelihood that reports 
     will become publicly available.
       We do not make a specific recommendation on who should 
     comprehensively publish non-confidential CRS reports online, 
     although the approaches outlined in H. Res. 34 (114th 
     Congress) and S. Res. 118 (111th Congress) are reasonable. 
     The Clerk of the House, the Secretary of the Senate, the 
     Government Publishing Office (GPO), the Library of Congress 
     and libraries in the Federal Depository Library Program 
     (FDLP) are all reasonable places for the public to gain 
     access to these documents. Even bulk publication on GPO's 
     website would be a major step forward.
       We ask only that all non-confidential reports be published 
     as they are released, updated, or withdrawn; that they be 
     published in their full, final form; that they are freely 
     downloadable individually and in bulk; and that they be 
     accompanied by an index or metadata that includes the report 
     ID, the date issued/updated, the report name, a hyperlink to 
     the report, the division that produced the report, and 
     possibly the report author(s) as well.
       In the attached appendix we briefly address concerns often 
     raised by CRS regarding public access to reports. In doing 
     so, we note that many committees, including the Senate Rules 
     Committee, have published CRS reports on their websites. 
     Also, that many CRS reports are available through third 
     parties. We urge you to give great weight to the significant 
     public benefit that would result from comprehensive, timely 
     access.
       We welcome the opportunity to further discuss implementing 
     systematic public access to non-confidential CRS reports. 
     Please contact Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress policy 
     director, at [email protected], or Kevin Kosar, R 
     Street Institute senior fellow and governance director, at 
     [email protected] Thank you for your thoughtful 
     consideration of this matter.
           With best regards,
       American Association of Law Libraries, American Civil 
     Liberties Union, American Library Association, Americans for 
     Tax Reform, Association of Research Libraries, Bill of Rights 
     Defense Committee, California State University San Marcos, 
     Cause of Action, Center for Democracy and Technology, Center 
     for Effective Government, Center for Media and Democracy, 
     Center for Responsive Politics, Citizens Against Government 
     Waste, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, 
     Congressional Data Coalition, Data Transparency Coalition, 
     Defending Dissent Foundation, Demand Progress, Engine, 
     Essential Information.
       Federation of American Scientists, Freedom Works, Free 
     Government Information, Government Accountability Project, 
     Middlebury College Library, Minnesota Coalition On Government 
     Information, National Coalition for History, National 
     Security 
     Archive, National Security Counselors, National Taxpayers 
     Union, NewFields Research Library, Niskanen Center, 
     OpenTheGovernment.org, Project on Government Oversight, 
     Public Citizen, R Street Institute, Sunlight Foundation, 
     Taxpayers for Common Sense, Transactional Records Access 
     Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, Union of 
     Concerned Scientists, Western Illinois University Libraries.
       Amy Spare, Andrew Lopez, Connecticut College, Barbara 
     Jones, Ben Amata, California State University, Sacramento, 
     Ben Doherty, Bernadine Abbott Hoduski, Professional Staff 
     Member, Joint Committee on Printing, retired, Bert Chapman, 
     Purdue University Libraries, Bill Olbrich, Bradley Seybold, 
     Brandon Burnette, Southeastern Oklahoma State University, 
     Brenda Ellis, BWS Johnson, Carol Bredemeyer, Carrie Russell, 
     Christine Alvey, Maryland State Archives, Claire King, Kansas 
     Supreme Court Law Library, Crystal Davidson, King College, 
     Daniel Barkley, University of New Mexico, Danya Leebaw, Dave 
     Morrison, Marriott Library, University of Utah.
       Deborah Melnick, LLAGNY, Dianne Oster, Donna Burton, Union 
     College, Dorothy Ormes, Edward Herman, Eileen Heaser, CSUS 
     Library, Ellen Simmons, Eric Mill, Francis Buckley, former 
     Superintendent of Documents, U.S. Government Printing Office, 
     Gail Fithian, Gail Whittemore, Genevieve Nicholson, Helen 
     Burke, Jacque Howell, Jane Larrington, Janetta Paschal, 
     Jeanette Sparks, Jennifer Pesetsky, JoAnne Deeken, Joy T. 
     Pile, Middlebury College.
       Judith Downie, Julia Hughes, Karen Heil, Government 
     Information Librarian, Middletown Thrall Library, Karen Russ, 
     Kathleen L. Amen, Kathy Carmichael, KC Halstead, Kelly 
     McGlynn, Kristine R. Kreilick, LaRita Schandorff, Larry 
     Romans, Laura G. Harper, Linda Johnson, University of New 
     Hampshire, Lois Fundis, Mary H. Weir Public Library, Lori 
     Gwinett, Lori L. Smith, Louise Buckley, University of New 
     Hampshire Library, Louise England, Marna Morland, Mamita 
     Simpson, University of Virginia Law Library.
       Mary Anne Curlee, Mary Jo Lazun, Megan Brooks, Melissa 
     Pinch, Michael J. Malbin, Professor of Political Science, 
     SUNY Albany, Michele Hayslett, UNC at Chapel Hill, Mike 
     Lynch, Mohamed Haian Abdirahman, Norman Ornstein, P. Duerr, 
     Patricia J. Powell, Government Documents Librarian, Roanoke 
     College Library, Professor Patricia B.M. Brennan, Rachel H. 
     Carpenter, Reference Government Documents Librarian,

[[Page S1281]]

     Rhode Island College, Rebecca Richardson, Robert Sippel, 
     Florida Institute of Technology, Rosemary Campagna, Sandy 
     Schiefer, University of Missouri--Columbia, Schuyler M. Cook, 
     Scott Casper, Shari Laster.
       Stephanie Braunstein, Stephen Hayes, Hesburgh Libraries, 
     University of Notre Dame, Susan Bucks, Monmouth University, 
     Susan Udry, Tammy Savinski, Taylor Fitchett, Thomas E. 
     Hickman, Thomas E. Mann, Victoria Mitchell, Wendy Swanberg, 
     Wilhelmina Randtke.
                                  ____

                                                February 29, 2016.
       Dear Chairman Miller, Chairman Blunt, and Vice Chairman 
     Harper: As a coalition of 12 conservative, free market 
     organizations we urge you to expand public access to 
     Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports.
       Each year CRS receives $100 million in taxpayer funding to 
     produce and update thousands of nonpartisan reports 
     describing government agencies, explaining public policy, and 
     tallying government spending. They are an invaluable resource 
     to Congress in its efforts to oversee our massive federal 
     government and hold it accountable.
       Members of Congress and their staff have easy access to CRS 
     reports. So too do lobbyists and other Beltway insiders, who 
     often pay for the reports through expensive subscription 
     services. But taxpayers cannot easily get copies of CRS 
     reports.
       This policy is unfair and outdated. It also stands in stark 
     contrast to other legislative branch agencies: both the 
     Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability 
     Office release their reports to the public.
       Making CRS reports easily accessible by the public will 
     increase transparency in government, and allow everyday 
     citizens access to important information that will better 
     educate them on the issues before Congress. The bottom line 
     is taxpayers pay for these reports. It is only fair that they 
     have easy access to them.
           Sincerely,
         Phil Kerpen, President, American Commitment; Grover 
           Norquist, President, Americans for Tax Reform; Norm 
           Singleton, President, Campaign for Liberty; Neil 
           Bradley, Chief Strategy Officer, Conservative Reform 
           Network; Tom Schatz, President, Council for Citizens 
           Against Government Waste; Adam Brandon, President and 
           CEO, Freedom Works; Michael Needham, CEO, Heritage 
           Action for America; Michael Ostrolenk, Co-Founder, 
           Liberty Coalition; Brandon Arnold, Executive Director, 
           National Taxpayers Union; Jerry Taylor, President, 
           Niskanen Center; Kevin Kosar, Senior Fellow and 
           Director of the Governance Project, R Street Institute; 
           David Williams, President, Taxpayers Protection 
           Alliance.

                          ____________________