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It’s Time to Publish CRS Reports

We have long advocated for public access to reports from the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Congress’ think tank. But CRS reports are little known and difficult to find because they are not distributed to FDLP libraries or made public — I harvest them up from sites around the ‘net that post them when they can, but it’s pretty random.

But now, thanks to the tireless efforts of Daniel Schuman, our friend and colleague and others at the Congressional Data Coalition, public access to CRS reports seems to be gathering steam. The NY Times published an editorial yesterday entitled “Congressional Research Belongs to the Public”. There are 2 legislative efforts underway in the House and Senate to make these valuable but difficult-to-find-or-even-know-about reports publicly available. Librarians have been fighting for this forever. Now it finally looks like it might just happen!

Over the years our coalition has submitted testimony in favor of public access to these reports, most recently in March. In summary, the reports explain current legislative issues in language that everyone can understand, are written by a federal agencies that receives more than $100 million annually, and there is strong public demand for access. A detailed description of the issues at play is available here.

This congress, two legislative efforts are underway to make CRS reports public. First, the bipartisan H. Res. 34, introduced by Reps. Leonard Lance (R-NY) and Mike Quigley (D-IL), would make all reports widely distributed in Congress available to the public, except confidential memoranda and advice provided by CRS at the request of a member. Second, Rep. Quigley offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have required CRS to make available an index of all of its reports. Similar legislation has been introduced in the Senate in prior years.

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