Resolution Introduced To Make Public Domain Congressional Research Finally Accessible To The Public

from the that-would-be-good dept

For years, we've been noting the absurdity of how Congress keeps the output of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) totally secret. As you hopefully know, works produced by the federal government are mostly not subject to copyright, and are in the public domain. Of course, just because something is in the public domain doesn't mean anyone has a requirement to make it available -- and Congress has long used that loophole to keep CRS reports very, very secret. Often this is because the CRS -- who has a very strong reputation for quality, non-biased, non-partisan, non-lobbying-influenced work -- produces research that shows that various Congressional proposals are a joke. And Congress doesn't want that info let out. Three years ago, Wikileaks jumpstarted some discussion by releasing thousands of CRS reports, but many think that the information, as public domain, should be more widely available.

Last year, we wrote about a bunch of groups sending a letter to Congress asking them to support making CRS reports public -- and it looks like some in Congress may actually be paying attention. Rep. Leonard Lance has introduced (with Reps. Quigley, Johnson, Cooper and Schiff) a resolution to make certain CRS publications available to the public. It's unclear if this has any chance of going anywhere, but it's good to see some interest in this issue.

The resolution asks the Clerk of the House to work with CRS to "establish and maintain a centralized, searchable, bulk downloadable, electronic database" which will include a bunch of CRS documents. Specifically:
(A) Congressional Research Service Issue Briefs.

(B) Congressional Research Service Reports.

(C) Congressional Research Service Authorization of Appropriations Products and Appropriations Products.

(D) Materials intended or available for general congressional distribution that are the same or substantially similar in content to CRS Reports, Issue Briefs, and Appropriations Products.
Having this info public would be a huge boon for the public. Hopefully Congress actually pays attention.

Filed Under: congress, congressional research service, public domain

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  1. identicon
    Mr. Applegate, 20 Jul 2012 @ 8:34am

    Re: How will this encourage Congress to continue using CRS?

    How exactly does making CRS reports public remove a trustworthy source? (It may be a source they are afraid to use, in which case they shouldn't be in politics anyway). As for confidential, that is a HUGE part of the problem with our political system. With the exception of certain national security issues, confidentiality should not be a part of politics, it corrupts the politician and the process.

    Putting the reports out in the open would, hopefully, give a politician pause when the CRS says "That's the dumbest thing to come down the pike in a long time". Perhaps the politician would then be held accountable if he tried to push through bad legislation (which happens all the time).

    I for one am sick to death of all the influence pedaling, back room deals, fear mongering, and dis-information. You certainly can't get at anything approaching the truth from the politicians, PACs, lobbyists or traditional news sources. Some straight up FACTS without SPIN or DECEPTION would be quite welcome!

    I guess the real fear is that the people would be educated and rise up in protest. Why do you think congress won't even ask how many Americans the NSA has spied on. They know the answer and they know Americans would revolt if they knew the truth. That goes for a lot of legislation that gets passed too. If people knew the truth about it rather than what they are told they would rise up in protest.

    Do you really think that the health care bill would have passed if the people had been told the truth (that it is a tax on EVERYONE, poor and rich alike). Did that even get widely reported after the Supreme Court said that the personal mandate was a tax and thus valid? No. If it did everyone that voted for it would lose this next election.

    He who controls the release of knowledge has complete control. Why do you think in the middle ages the lower classes were not allowed to learn to read? Because they might learn the truth and rise up. And most Americans are just like sheep, they may occasionally bleat in protest, but they will still follow the Sheppard (politician) right to the slaughter house.

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