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Problems of Access to Congressional Information

In a CQ Weekly cover story, Tim Starks examines openness and secrecy in Congress:

Most government information specialists will already know about Congressional Record changes, the exemption of Congress from FOIA, the unavailability of CRS reports, and will have their own anecdotes about the difficulty of tracking down information that, according to the textbooks, should be available. Starks gives more examples of more problems. This should be required reading.

Here are some samples:

  • The Senate voted almost two years ago to disclose more information from the letters senators write requesting appropriations earmarks but the provision was quietly dropped the bill became law.
  • A bill drafted behind locked doors in one committee, is debated in open session by another.
  • Senate committee votes on a presidential nominee kept secret
  • Some committees restrict access to amendments made during markup so tightly that no paper is circulated except on the dais were the members sit.
  • The House Appropriations Committee has a surveys and investigation team assigned to investigate the worthiness of federal programs, similar to the function of the Government Accountability Office, none of the team’s reports have been made public in at least two years.

The article even mentions, though briefly, the issue of some government information only being made available to the public through commercial sources.

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