Yesterday, Sen. Joe Lieberman introduced a resolution (S. Res. 118), with a bipartisan cast of cosponsors, to allow for the public release of Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. CRS reports are some of the best research documents in the nation and are currently used by lawmakers and their staff to inform their decisions and help in crafting legislation. Currently, CRS reports are not supposed to be released to the public, however, some web sites collect them from lawmaker offices distributing them anonymously. Many of these sites are pay sites, save for Open CRS, which is operated by the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT).
CDT lauds the new Lieberman resolution in a blog post:
The public can also purchase copies of the reports from CRS report resellers, but obtaining copies of all the reports that are relevant would cost a great deal of money for reports that are entirely taxpayer funded in the first place.
Senate Resolution 118 would change that by allowing lawmakers to provide access to CRS services to the public on official website. Rather than creating a new tool for public access, the resolution would let Members and Committees share reports with the public using the same online services that are available on Congress’ internal CRS website.
Critically, the new resolution also requires that an index of CRS issue briefs and reports to be made public. Currently, Open CRS receives updates on reports as they are published from an anonymous lawmaker, but a public index of reports would simplify this process. It would be simple to provide this index, and to let the public know what their lawmakers are reading- and for them to read it too. It is high time for an officially sanctioned, free way to distribute the reports to the people.
This is a resolution that deserves strong support. The free release of CRS reports has always been a top priority of The Open House Project.