Quigley, Lance Push for Public Access to CRS Reports

Oct 22, 2015
Host Bipartisan Transparency Caucus Briefing during International Open Access Week

WASHINGTON – In an effort to increase transparency and access to congressional research services, U.S. Representatives Mike Quigley (IL-05), Co-Chair of the Transparency Caucus, and Leonard Lance (NJ-07) held a bipartisan briefing to discuss the distribution of non-confidential Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports to the public during International Open Access Week.

“It’s time to allow the American people to access the same neutral, unbiased, nonpartisan information that we in Congress rely on every day,” said Rep. Quigley. “Opening CRS to the public would empower our constituents with vital information about the key issues, policies, and budgets we’re debating here in Congress, increasing government transparency and giving the public the tools they need to hold their government accountable. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle until non-confidential CRS reports are open to all.”

“American taxpayers spend more than $100 million a year supporting the work of the Congressional Research Service and their findings, reports and analysis should be public information. American taxpayer deserves access to the same objective and nonpartisan CRS analyses on which we rely as Members of Congress,” said Rep. Lance. “What is good for Congress should be good for the general public. Public debate has become increasingly partisan and polarized so it is more important than ever for citizens to have full access to the same neutral, unbiased information that many of us rely on to help us formulate important decisions.”                                                                                                   

Reps. Quigley and Lance gave opening remarks, followed by a panelist discussion. Panelists included The Honorable Chris Shays, Represented the Fourth Congressional District in Connecticut from 1987-2008; Prue Adler, Associate Executive Director, Association of Research Libraries; Stan Brand, Senior Counsel, Akin Gump Law Firm; Kevin Kosar, Senior Fellow and Governance Project Director, R Street Institute; and Daniel Schuman, Policy Director, Demand Progress.

"The Congressional Research Service (CRS) does a terrific job educating our national representatives,” said The Honorable Chris Shays, who represented the Fourth Congressional District in Connecticut from 1987-2008 and was a leader on this issue at the time. “The employees of CRS are true professionals. Their work should be shared with the people who ultimately pay their salary."

“Every American should have access to the non-confidential reports written by the Congressional Research Service,” said Daniel Schuman, Policy Director at Demand Progress. “Thanks to the bipartisan efforts of Reps. Quigley and Lance, the American people are that much closer to having the thoughtful, in-depth CRS-produced analyses of the crucial issues our country faces at their fingertips.” 

For more than two decades, Congress has wrestled with whether to systematically distribute non-confidential CRS reports to the public. In the 113th Congress, Reps. Quigley and Lance introduced the Congressional Research Service Electronic Accessibility Act, which would amend the current law to allow the public release of congressional reports that CRS produces. Earlier this year, Reps. Quigley and Lance introduced House Resolution 34, which directs the Clerk of the House of Representatives to maintain a centralized public database for non-confidential CRS reports. Rep. Quigley also offered an amendment during the Legislative Branch appropriations committee mark up that would require CRS to keep an updated list of their published reports on their publically available website. Rep. Quigley’s amendment would have increased transparency of what reports are available for the public to request.

Earlier this week, a letter was sent by former employees of the CRS that calls for “timely, comprehensive free public access to CRS reports” to a group of Congressional lawmakers with the power to make the CRS reports public. The letter goes on to make a strong argument for CRS to publish their reports online in a way for everyday citizens to easily access them.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a little-known but highly regarded division of the Library of Congress. The research service is by law exclusively for the use of members of Congress and congressional staff. CRS is governed by requirements for accuracy, objectivity, balance, and nonpartisanship – the very sort of analysis sought and valued by engaged constituents.  As a dedicated congressional support agency, CRS is joined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) in providing Congress with information and analysis that is unequaled by any other national legislature. While GAO and CBO reports are already available to the public, CRS reports are not.

The bipartisan Transparency Caucus serves as a resource for Members of Congress on bipartisan, open government initiatives. The caucus promotes legislation that requires federal information to be freely accessible, as well as advocates for new programs that support transparency.