Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Public Access to CRS Reports

In its December 14 blog post, Secrecy News mentions that the 2010 Branch Appropriations Act (Public Law 111-68), states that the CRS budget can not be used to pay any salary or expense that would make CRS reports available to the public. Secrecy News--one of our sources for uncovering CRS reports--contends that this mandate was intended to block public access to CRS documents. If you search for "congressional research service" within the PDF document, you find this:

"For necessary expenses to carry out the provisions of section
203 of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (2 U.S.C. 166)
and to revise and extend the Annotated Constitution of the United
States of America, $112,490,000: Provided, That no part of such
amount may be used to pay any salary or expense in connection
with any publication, or preparation of material therefor (except
the Digest of Public General Bills), to be issued by the Library
of Congress unless such publication has obtained prior approval
of either the Committee on House Administration of the House
of Representatives or the Committee on Rules and Administration
of the Senate."

So it's not clear from this paragraph that the law intends to block public access to CRS reports. It just states that payment for such distribution has to be approved by the Committee on House Administration or the Committee on Rules and Administration of the Senate. I decided to search within these two committee sites to determine if I could find any interesting information about CRS reports. This page from the Senate Committee provides the public with access to CRS reports about Senate procedures and administration, which may not prove terribly interesting or useful to the general public researcher. I found this statement by Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA) to be more interesting: "the public does not have direct access to CRS products due to concerns that the nonpartisan nature of CRS work might be compromised." Nevertheless, on his web site Moran provides access to a handful of CRS reports. Also interesting is that Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), who used to provide access to CRS reports on his web site, no longer does so.

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