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house Bill H.R. 736

Should Reports Sent to Congress be Publicly Available in a Searchable Database?

Argument in favor

A single, public website that serves as a repository for all congressionally mandated reports would make it easier for the public to discover what the government has learned using their tax dollars and help congressional staffers who need to access the reports for their lawmaker or constituents.

SneakyPete's Opinion
路路路
03/10/2019
馃憤馃徎 H.R. 736 AKA Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act 馃憤馃徎 I鈥檇 be supportive of and recommend the passage of the House Bill H.R.736 AKA Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, a single, public website that serves as a repository for all congressionally mandated reports would make it easier for the public to discover what the government has learned using their tax dollars and help congressional staffers who need to access the reports for their lawmaker or constituents. SneakyPete......... 馃憤馃徎馃憤馃徎HR736馃憤馃徎馃憤馃徎. 3*10*19.......
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IllWill's Opinion
路路路
03/12/2019
All reports that are available to Congress excluding classified documents should be easily available to the public! This is our government! They work for us so we should have easy access to these reports for the sake of transparency!
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Leslie's Opinion
路路路
03/12/2019
Yes, American's are funding the Government and we are being kept in the dark! We already know Russia & China can and ARE HACKING OUR GOVERNMENT! It isn't right that "We The People" don't have transparency in our Government! Get Edward Snowden Back! Work Harder, Better & Faster at SECURING AMERICA'S INFORMATION! IF SOMEONE IS WHISTLEBLOWING IT'S BECAUSE THEY SEE THINGS THAT "OUR GOVERNMENT" IS DOING AND SHOULDN'T BE! FIX IT IMMEDIATELY IF NOT FASTER
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Argument opposed

There are already ways for staffers and the public to access congressionally mandated reports. The House Clerk organizes all reports sent to Congress, and members of the public can request any agency records via FOIA requests.

burrkitty's Opinion
路路路
03/12/2019
Our government hasn鈥檛 made the investment in cyber security that I think is sufficient to protect all this information. I think, although cumbersome, FOIA is acceptable until we really make cyber security the priority. I am all for transparency, but this is currently too risky.
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Melvin 's Opinion
路路路
03/12/2019
I do have some discretion about what should be made public and what should be held in privacy. I certainly wouldn鈥檛 want my bank account open to the public, just as the government should operate in areas of trust. I feel like right now the fact that this administration wants to cut Medicare and Medicaid, is very important to me and thousands of Americans. The people that sit back and only have one issue are sad, I know a few people that worked hard and receive either assistance for health and then those who voted for this sad case of presidency are about to get screwed. I therefore am saying that I鈥檓 Fierce as a tax payer should be at the attempt to rob Americans of either health support. The only way to rid our selves of this idiot and his puppets is to become Fierce as we can and stay that way. I appreciate knowing your out there, and signal me once in a while, but if we don鈥檛 vote the republicans out of office there will be no Medicare or Medicaid. There will be however the trillions-of tax breaks for the extremely wealthy that want our children to protect them as we send our children off to join the military. I am asking for all that are aware of this sickness to write their representative as I continue admiring that intelligent nurse. Catch me
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Christopher's Opinion
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03/12/2019
That鈥檚 what C-SPAN and countable are for. Right?
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The senate has not voted
  • The house has not voted
    IntroducedJanuary 23rd, 2019

What is House Bill H.R. 736?

This bill would require the Government Publishing Office (GPO) to establish and maintain a publicly available website containing copies of all congressionally mandated reports. The website would be required feature the following, along with certain descriptive information related to such reports: 1) the ability to retrieve a report through specified types of searches; 2) a means for downloading reports individually or in bulk; 3) an electronic means for federal agencies to submit reports to the GPO, as required by the bill; and 4) a list of all reports that can be searched and sorted by time frame or submission status (in a tabular form).

To bring this bill into effect, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) would issue guidance to federal agencies on the bill鈥檚 requirement that agencies submit copies of congressionally mandated reports and related information to the GPO. Within reports鈥 bodies, agencies would retain discretion over redaction or withholding of certain information in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and other applicable laws. Once appropriately redacted, all public-facing reports would be published to the website within 30 days of submission to Congress.

Finally, by April 1 of each year, the Library of Congress would be required to submit a list of all congressionally mandated reports from the previous year. This list would be provided in an open format, and would include specified identifying and descriptive information. It鈥檇 also be used by GPO to compare against the list of reports received from agencies, helping check whether agencies are complying with their responsibilities in a timely manner.

Impact

Members of the public seeking congressional reports; Congress; Government Publishing Office; Library of Congress; and Office of Management and Budget.

Cost of House Bill H.R. 736

Last Congress, the CBO estimated that implementing this bill would cost about $2 million from 2019-2023. This amount would cover about $400,000 a year for four employees (two senior and two junior analysts) to ensure comprehensive compliance with the requirement to list all mandated reports.

More Information

In-DepthRep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) reintroduced this bill from the 115th Congress 鈥 which he first introduced in 2011 鈥 to improve the public's and congressional staff's access to Congressionally mandated reports through the establishment of a searchable central website managed by the GPO:

鈥淚n our modern technological era, the American people deserve easy access to these taxpayer-funded reports and the wealth of information they contain. The ability to obtain these reports will benefit anyone interested in the public policy issues that impact their daily lives. From congressional staffers and government employees to everyday Americans, these public reports strengthen our service to all those we represent, as well as our commitment to transparency at every level of government.鈥

Last Congress, Rep. Quigley argued that there's no reason for Congressional reports to remain inaccessible via a searchable online repository:

鈥淲ith an abundance of innovative, 21st century technology, it鈥檚 not too much to ask the federal government to make already published reports鈥攑aid for by taxpayers鈥攅asily accessible to the public. These reports, which span every issue area with in-depth, expert analysis, would provide valuable information to congressional staffers, students, journalists, businesses, and anyone else who wants to learn more about the policies that impact their lives. A more open and user-friendly data system will help Americans be better informed and help them hold elected officials accountable for the actions they take on constituents鈥 behalf.鈥

This bill is endorsed by 38 organizations across the political spectrum, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Campaign for Accountability, Center for Data Innovation, Center for Reponsive Politics, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), OpenTheGovernment, Project on Government Oversight (POGO), and Sage Information Services.

This bill has 20 bipartisan cosponsors, including 13 Democrats and seven Republicans, in the current session of Congress. Last Congress, this bill passed the Committee on House Administration and House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on voice votes with the support of 16 bipartisan cosponsors of this bill, including nine Democrats and seven Republicans.

Rep. Quigley first introduced this bill in 2011, and has introduced it in the past five Congresses.


Of NoteEvery year, Congress receives thousands of reports from federal agencies, but currently does not compile them in a central location. Currently, these reports are maintained by the Clerk of the House in a comprehensive list that exceeds 320 pages, rather than in an easily searchable system.

This creates a number of problems: first, reports can be lost because they鈥檙e difficult to find on the publishing agency鈥檚 website. Second, reports can be lost because only a small number of copies are ever delivered by the agency (to a Committee, for example), fulfilling the letter of the law but not creating a real public record of the report. These two possibilities create a third problem: congressional staff 鈥 who often need reports for research 鈥 can have difficulty tracking a report down even a few months after the original publication date, making multiple calls to agencies in order to track down a copy, wasting valuable time and effort that could be better spent helping lawmakers serve their constituents鈥 needs.

While public access to agency reports via FOIA requests is available as a current means for the public to access the reports covered under this bill, the current FOIA request process is cumbersome, requiring that individuals submit requests in writing and describe the records they are seeking (not an easy feat if one is at the beginning of a fact-finding mission). Additionally, the process can be quite slow 鈥 although the law sets a deadline of 20 working days on the initial request, and 20 working days on the administrative appeal, delays are common.


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: cyan066 /iStock)

AKA

Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act

Official Title

Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act

    馃憤馃徎 H.R. 736 AKA Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act 馃憤馃徎 I鈥檇 be supportive of and recommend the passage of the House Bill H.R.736 AKA Access to Congressionally Mandated Reports Act, a single, public website that serves as a repository for all congressionally mandated reports would make it easier for the public to discover what the government has learned using their tax dollars and help congressional staffers who need to access the reports for their lawmaker or constituents. SneakyPete......... 馃憤馃徎馃憤馃徎HR736馃憤馃徎馃憤馃徎. 3*10*19.......
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    Our government hasn鈥檛 made the investment in cyber security that I think is sufficient to protect all this information. I think, although cumbersome, FOIA is acceptable until we really make cyber security the priority. I am all for transparency, but this is currently too risky.
    Like (10)
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    All reports that are available to Congress excluding classified documents should be easily available to the public! This is our government! They work for us so we should have easy access to these reports for the sake of transparency!
    Like (10)
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    Yes, American's are funding the Government and we are being kept in the dark! We already know Russia & China can and ARE HACKING OUR GOVERNMENT! It isn't right that "We The People" don't have transparency in our Government! Get Edward Snowden Back! Work Harder, Better & Faster at SECURING AMERICA'S INFORMATION! IF SOMEONE IS WHISTLEBLOWING IT'S BECAUSE THEY SEE THINGS THAT "OUR GOVERNMENT" IS DOING AND SHOULDN'T BE! FIX IT IMMEDIATELY IF NOT FASTER
    Like (6)
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    WE PAY FOR THEM, SO WE SHOULD GET ACCESS TO THEM!
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    Transparency fights corruption.
    Like (4)
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    Transparency in as many things as possible with the federal government. We the People should have free and easy access to what we learned from paying for projects like shrimp on treadmills. This sort of access puts light onto what our tax dollars are being used for and who is asking for it.
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    They work for me, I should know EVERYTHING they know.
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    Everything that is put before Congress should be put before the people. Just like the Muller investigation if the files are made public then they should be put to the public. Not hidden from view.
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    We need to know! Lack of information from media and our representatives leads to imaginary news/opinions and conspiracy speculations from people around the world.
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    Assuming that cyber technology is further secured, I鈥檇 support the measure. Public transparency is crucial so, for that reason, digital access would further that goal. However, national security risks must be considered before public posting.
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    This bill would simplify the process. It currently is tedious and difficult to find reports.
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    Transparency in congress and the government.
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    There needs to be a set of facts that congress and the people are viewing to take judgment. we cant just trust the politicians to tell us bc they are greedy for power and donations
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    In a perfect world my answer would be nay. But this ain鈥檛 a perfect world and I can鈥檛 trust the elected officials to make decisions that are in the best interest of this country and it鈥檚 people. So...Yes. More oversight is required. This does not include sensitive military program budgets, and national security protection. This also doesn鈥檛 mean cram hidden bills into these programs.
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    I do have some discretion about what should be made public and what should be held in privacy. I certainly wouldn鈥檛 want my bank account open to the public, just as the government should operate in areas of trust. I feel like right now the fact that this administration wants to cut Medicare and Medicaid, is very important to me and thousands of Americans. The people that sit back and only have one issue are sad, I know a few people that worked hard and receive either assistance for health and then those who voted for this sad case of presidency are about to get screwed. I therefore am saying that I鈥檓 Fierce as a tax payer should be at the attempt to rob Americans of either health support. The only way to rid our selves of this idiot and his puppets is to become Fierce as we can and stay that way. I appreciate knowing your out there, and signal me once in a while, but if we don鈥檛 vote the republicans out of office there will be no Medicare or Medicaid. There will be however the trillions-of tax breaks for the extremely wealthy that want our children to protect them as we send our children off to join the military. I am asking for all that are aware of this sickness to write their representative as I continue admiring that intelligent nurse. Catch me
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    Congress works for us so obviously the reports should be in a free searchable database.
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    This is another duh bill. Yes I would love a way to easier see all the reports that my tax payers dollars are going to.
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    Our government should be transparent.
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    Make Congress Transparent Again
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