Help Remove Hold on Presidential Records Reform Bill in Senate

The Presidential Records Act Amendments bill (H.R. 1255) is currently being prevented from a vote in the U.S. Senate by Sen. Jim Bunning (R-KY). He has not stated his reasons for doing so. H.R.1255 removes restrictions placed by President Bush’s 2001 Executive Order 13233 and enhances the Presidential Records Act, one of the nation’s most important open-government laws.

On March 14, 2007, by a vote of 333-93, the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 1255.

The bill was brought to the Senate floor last week under unanimous consent. Sen. Bunning objected to the request under his own name – so the hold is no longer anonymous.

The White House has threatened to veto H.R.1255. Sen. Bunning may be acting on the administration’s behalf considering he has not stated his own specific concerns.

On October 2, Sen. Lieberman put out a press release calling for Senate passage of the bill.

We are asking for your help,

1) Contact Sen. Bunning’s office by phone and ask that he release the hold on the bill so it can be scheduled for a vote. His direct office number is 202-224-4343.

2) Contact your Senator, tell them of your support for H.R.1255 and ask them to urge Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to have Sen. Bunning release the hold on the bill. You may do this via email, phone or letter.

Background

In November 2001, President George W. Bush issued Executive Order 13233, which gave current and former Presidents and Vice Presidents broad authority to withhold Presidential records or delay their release indefinitely. The Presidential Records Act Amendments (H.R.1255) would nullify the Bush executive order and re-establish procedures to ensure the timely release of Presidential records.

The records of the highest elected public office in the country, the President of the United States, belong to the people and are official evidence of government activities. Presidential records, preserved and made accessible by the National Archives, document the decisions and operation of the executive branch, contribute to cultural and historical understanding and strengthen our government by the people.

For more information, see briefing on H.R. 1255 by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee* and NARA’s summary on the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

These are letters from ALA to Sen. Bunning (PDF)and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (PDF) supporting passage of H.R. 1255.

* One amendment, insisted upon by Sen. Tom Coburn, has been added that extends the review period from 40 to 90 days.

About Jacob Roberts

Jacob Roberts is the communications specialist for the ALA Washington Office.

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