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
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Jul 2012 @ 7:56am

    How will this encourage Congress to continue using CRS?

    The whole point of CRS is to give congresspeople a confidential venue to ask questions and float ideas that may prove to be stupid without having their questions used as political footballs.

    If a Congressperson knows CRS reports on their questions will be made public, even if they had no intention of pursuing legislation based on those questions, and then will be used to criticize and browbeat them, why would they ask the question in the first place? How will removing the one trustworthy resource they have, improve the political process? Or does that even matter as long as we can see the documents?

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