Congress needs to stop making it so difficult to get non-confidential information. To help make this reality, Cause of Action Institute signed onto a bipartisan coalition letter asking Congress to expand public access to non-confidential documents through the Congressional Review Service (“CRS”).  Congress should direct the CRS to create a system that provides free, easy access to all members of the public.

Virtually unknown outside of the D.C. beltway, the CRS plays an instrumental role in America’s legislative process.  The service provides policy and legal analysis for members of Congress in both parties.  Some of the reports it produces are confidential, but many of them are not.  The non-confidential reports could provide much-needed insight on legislative issues.  Considering taxpayers fund the CRS to the tune of $100 million annually, the public has a right to see its work.

Currently, the CRS permits public access to some documents, but the process is not simple and people have to jump through hoops to get reports.

The Congressional Review Service has suggested that there would be complications with releasing information, such as reproducing copyrighted information, needing to engage with the public and losing speech-and–debate clause protection.  However, these arguments are unfounded because its content has been cited in numerous media reports and court decisions.

For example, over the past ten years, Congressional Review Service documents have been cited in The Washington Post 67 times and The New York Times 45 times.  Moreover, the Government Accountability Office has made clear that the work of the U.S. government is not subject to copyright protection.

Confidential information must be protected, but  the public should be able to see what its government is doing and access the same information Congress uses to make decisions.