by Countable | 7.28.17
Americans pay $100 million a year for Congress to do research, which can assist in the creation of bills and policies, and now, because of legislation in the Senate Appropriations Committee, Americans may get access to the research.
As described on their website, the Congressional Research Service (CRS), a legislative branch within the Library of Congress, "works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation." The website goes on to explain that “CRS is well-known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan.”
In a press release by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, detailing his proposed legislation — the fiscal year 2018 Legislative Branch Appropriations Bill (FY18) — it requests that all non-confidential CRS reports be made "freely available to the public, schools and libraries across the country." Additionally, Leahy noted that “these reports are taxpayer funded and provide valuable information that should be made available to citizens.”
Reports in recent years have focused on Cuba, immigration, the Islamic State and the Affordable Care Act.
Known as Congress’s think tank, the CRS issues or updates over 3000 reports each year. These reports come from the CRS staff, which includes lawyers, economists, and social, natural and physical scientists. The CRS makes no legislative or policy recommendations— it strives to provide members of Congress with the best possible non-partisan information and analysis so they can make their own policy decisions.
Currently, CRS reports aren’t available to the taxpayers who funded them, but, according to Leahy’s website, "third-party for-profit companies often make them available to lobbyists for hefty subscription fees."
"A democracy depends on access to accurate information that informs a discussion of ideas. These reports are taxpayer funded and provide valuable information that should be made available to everyone--not exclusively to lobbyists and DC insiders."
There’s bipartisan, bicameral support for this measure. A proposal to release CRS reports to the public was included in the spending bill recently passed by the House. The legislation was introduced by Leonard Lance (R-NJ), who said:
"It is good public policy to allow educators, students, members of the news media and everyday citizens access to CRS' nonpartisan taxpayer-funded reports."
He continued with words that echoed across the aisle, and chambers:
"And it's time to put an end to the black market demand for these reports. Third-party companies like Amazon are selling these reports online, but the taxpayers already paid for the information. It's time we knock down the barriers to use it."
On the House side, making the CRS reports public would be paid for as part of the $16 million increase provided to the Library of Congress (for a total of $648 million).
Back in 2015, both lawmakers and members of the CRS voiced concerns about opening the reports to the public. At the time, Congressman Gregg Harper (R-MS) said that "you could argue both ways" about whether to release the reports. “You want to make sure [CRS] can speak openly and we can get the information we need. Now, do you want to release that to the public? That’s something that we’re still trying to work through."
The CRS also advised Congress that making their reports available to the public could have "potentially significant institutional and legal consequences for CRS and current congressional operations and practices."
According to rollcall.com, these concerns ranged from "from exposing CRS to legal liabilities to damaging the important relationship between the agency and its client base."
But the recent push to disseminate the CRS reports included a bipartisan group of 40 nonprofits and 25 former CRS employees.
Senator Leahy said he was glad to finally move the measure forward:
"I’m glad we’re one step closer to the high school student in Milton writing a paper, or the small business owner in Rutland concerned about health care, having access to the same information that I have when I vote on the Senate Floor."
Is it about time the CRS made its reports available to the public? Or were the concerns from 2015 valid?
Hit Take Action and let us know.
(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)
Written by Countable
The information that CRS compiles should be made public, but perhaps in order to prevent the sources from being open to legal liability there should be some confidentiality left to protect whoever gathers and analyses the data to create the reports.
Release the CRS reports to the tax paying public. I do not believe that third party companies should be able to make money off of research that my tax dollars paid for and yet I am denied access to that information. Our Members of Congress need a serious paradigm shift. You work for the American citizens not the corporations.
I absolutely agree CRS reports should be made public. Taxpayers paid for the research so we should see the results. Not being able to access them directly is like going to the doctor and having tests run only to be told you will have to purchase the results online. Nonsense. Now the question is how many of us will even bother to look at the research for ourselves in order to form our own opinions and how many will choose to continue to be spoon fed an imbalanced information diet by biased sources with ulterior motives. Congress definitely should make this wealth of information available but after that it is up to us to make use of it. It would be awesome if some clever civic-minded tech type could make an app for that so folks like me could easily get to it without banging our heads against the wall.
It makes inherent sense that information gathered by the CRS, paid for with tax money, is released to the public. We should not have to pay twice for this data.
We pay for it we should get to see it.
The CRS reports should be released to the public. This would certainly add to transparency in government and it would allow the public access to information collected on our behalf and on our dime.
I support sharing the research through our Libraries and educational institutions.
Vote yes for this bill. The public should have access to research that we pay for and is used to formulate polices. We should also have access to the information provided to Congress from corporate lobbyists
Unless it's pertaining to the intelligence community, the words confidential and congress, as far as I'm concerned, should never be used in the same sentence. I expect transparency from my leaders, right down to their research. Their research is what leads to laws. It absolutely needs to be public knowledge.
We pay for this so we should have public access
Yes the reports need to be public. We pay for them so we should know what is in the reports
All congressional res arch that is not deemed a national security risk should be public domain. The citizenry Pat's for it and it should be our right to see it as soon as it is completed. Please support such legislation.
It's time for the CRS to make its reports available to the public, it will help us all make better decisions. The concerns from 2015 are not valid.
The key words are non-confidential research. Of course it should be made publicly available. Any action that strengthens public knowledge about legislative proceedings empowers the voter.
How much truth, and accuracy, would go into these documents? Would this lead me to be more trusting of our government? NO! In our world, this could very well turn out to be more money wasted.
About time?! I’ll say! Human Subject Research Permissions and IRBs have had a lack of accountability and oversight...In regards to Outright NO and Pleadings to STOP, to pointing out the hacking and reverse root engineering and incompatibility to causing harm to health and welfare...especially where Traumatic Brain Injuries are concerned...and the pervasive, persistent, embedded, partitioned, open sourced root boot hack of “The Brain Project” ...using Darwin Root Gnu Xnu kernel daemons BSD root from “chosen-uuid-./“: GUID Partition Table Scheme 2@2(unknown dev)...A Windows Boot WINBIOS reverse engineered ssh:root# /dev/rdisk/Os2 Open Sourced Engineered (ARM launchd(1) configd) so that YOU are no longer the administrator of your own device...Your user profile having been “trumped” and “dumped” by a superuser (developer/hacker) named “0” (or zero)...hiding in the shadows (shadow.dom)...behind “null”(no name/nothing)...So that THEY can continue to carry out nefarious unethical activities...while jeopardizing the health and safety of others...Fire hazards...electrical problems with older knob and tube wiring (which is ungrounded)...devices that get too hot...reverse flow and psi that is too high causing leaks...We do not all live in the same kinds of buildings...Condominium Conversions of older apartment buildings into single standing units need to not be “Nulls”...They MUST be tracked...As does the jeopardizing of those who live with such injuries in such buildings...subjected to 24/7 hacking and tracking since 2004...The year of my injury...Do I have the documents to prove it? You bet...Ever since my printer started printing out code...Which I am not an expert on, but can read...learned on an Apple IIE and Windows in 1982 and 1983...
This is the first I've heard of CRS reports. I have a similar complaint with university research that has been paid for by the taxpayer. I frequently come across reports that I could use for my work but have to pay about $35 to access it. I agree that all non confidential research that's been paid for by the public, should be available to the public.
Vote yes to make the CRS reports public.
Make CRS reports public
I see no reason for this to be private. For transparency, allow research to be open to the public. One exception: any info that may harm our country's ability to protect ourselves from another country's trying to harm us.