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Congress Still Playing Keep-Away with CRS Reports

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Yet again, the House Appropriations Committee has decided to maintain a ban on the Congressional Research Service’s (CRS) ability to publish its taxpayer funded reports.  As an arm of Congress, CRS researches and analyzes important national policy issues for the legislative branch. It then authors reports to Congress, issue briefs, and authorization and appropriations reports on those subjects. Unfortunately, as Congress continues to prohibit CRS from publishing its reports, including non-confidential ones, public access to these reports is wholly dependent on private initiatives such as the Federation of American Scientist’s CRS report database.

For over a decade, the Project On Government Oversight has advocated for public access to CRS reports, recommending in 2003 that those unclassified reports and other CRS products be made readily available to the public. When asked about this withholding of CRS reports in 2011, former CRS Senior Specialist Louis Fisher said:

I've never seen a credible argument for confidentiality. You can go onto CBO [Congressional Budget Office] and GAO [Government Accountability Office] websites and download reports. Why wouldn't you do the same thing with these publicly funded reports? It's been management policy and it's been clearly with the broad support of Congress. And I don't understand why Congress would want the products withheld from the public.

Making certain types of CRS products widely available to the public would provide citizens with the type of high quality information necessary to actively and knowledgeably participate in public debate about current issues and the workings of our government. Holding this information prisoner, as Congress has been doing since 1952 claiming that it has control and custody of everything produced by CRS, is a grave disservice to the public.

By: Elizabeth "Liz" Hempowicz
Policy Counsel, POGO

Photograph of Elizabeth Liz Hempowicz is Policy Counsel for the Project On Government Oversight.

Topics: Open Government

Related Content: Information Access

Authors: Elizabeth "Liz" Hempowicz

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