In an effort to increase transparency and access to congressional research services, U.S. Reps. Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) announced today that they will re-introduce the "Congressional Research Service Electronic Accessibility Act." The lawmakers introduced similar legislation in the previous Congress.
The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a little-known but highly regarded division of the Library of Congress. The research service is by law exclusively for the use of members of Congress and congressional staff. The Lance-Quigley measure would amend the current law to allow the public release of congressional reports that CRS produces.
"American taxpayers spend more than $100 million annually in support of the work done at the Congressional Research Service," said Congressman Leonard Lance. "It makes smart fiscal sense to allow educators, students, members of the news media and everyday citizens access to CRS' non-partisan taxpayer-funded reports. What is good for Congress should be good for the general public."
"The Congressional Research Service is invaluable for lawmakers, who rely on its non-partisan work to help inform the policy decisions we make every day," said Congressman Mike Quigley. "By making these taxpayer-funded reports more accessible to the public, we can increase transparency and empower every day citizens to continue being the government's best watchdog."
"The American people should know what Congress is doing, and that includes a strong understanding of the choices and issues legislators face. The Congressional Research Service's non-partisan policy reports should be distributed far and wide, not hidden away or locked behind a pay-wall," said Sunlight Foundation Policy Counsel Daniel Schuman. "By re-introducing this important bill, Reps. Quigley and Lance are working to help the American people better understand their Congress and make government more open and accountable."
Numerous good government groups and advocates for more congressional transparency have endorsed the measure -- including the Sunlight Foundation, iSolon.org, Progressive Librarians Guild, Society of Professional Journalists and the Utah Foundation for Open Government, WildEarth Guardians, Defending Dissent Foundation, Free Government Information, Washington Coalition for Open Government, American Library Association, Association of Research Libraries, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, Government Accountability Project, OpenTheGovernment.org, Federation of American Scientists, American Association of Law Libraries and Investigative Reporters and Editors.
CRS is governed by requirements for accuracy, objectivity, balance, and nonpartisanship -- the very sort of analysis sought and valued by engaged constituents. As a dedicated congressional support agency, CRS is joined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in providing Congress with information and analysis that is unequaled by any other national legislature. While GAO and CBO reports are already available to the public, CRS reports are not.