Today, after months of behind-the-scenes stage-setting, the bipartisan “Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016” was introduced in the House and Senate. The two identical bills (numbers pending) direct the US Government Publishing Office to release CRS reports online, allowing the public virtually the same free access to these high-quality reports on an enormous range of subjects that Members of Congress and their staffs have enjoyed for decades. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) sponsored the bill in the Senate, while Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) introduced the bill jointly in the House, starting the celebration of Sunshine Week a few days early.
ALA worked closely with more than 40 other organizations to reach this milestone, including particularly Demand Progress. The coalition’s statement on introduction of the bill, as well as the press statements released by all four of its authors, are available on the Demand Progress website.
In his statement, Senator Leahy (the only bill sponsor who sits on the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress) noted: “Outside of Congress, for decades these reports have been ‘public’ only for insiders who can afford to pay a subscription fee. That’s not very ‘public’ and does nothing for the average citizen in Vermont or the rest of the country. Our bill will open up this invaluable, taxpayer-funded resource for use by all Americans and by schools and libraries. CRS was founded on principles of nonpartisanship and the belief that accurate, thoughtful information should inform the policy conversations of the day. It is a testament to the best ideals of Congress, and all Americans should benefit from the work and resources it provides.”
ALA and its allies will be working for a speedy hearing on the bill and its ultimate passage in both chambers of Congress. No doubt, there will be an important role for grassroots supporters to play in that effort. Stay tuned!