Isn’t It Finally Time that Congressional Research Service Reports be Made Available to the Public?

Saturday, June 27, 2015
CRS Director Mary B. Mazanec (photo: Library of Congress)

The research arm of Congress spends $100 million a year informing lawmakers on key policy issues through reports that are mostly hidden from the public. Now good government advocates and the media are trying to make these reports readily available to those who paid for them—the U.S. taxpayers.


The reports produced by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) are not classified. But nor are they put up online, like those from the Government Accountability Office.


One way to see a CRS report is to go through a U.S. senator or representative, but lawmakers are no obligated to facilitate such requests. Third-party sources offer the reports for sale, but it’s unreasonable to expect Americans to pay again for something they already financed. A few private groups, such as the Federation of American Scientists, do post reports, but they don’t post all of them. Nor can Americans use the Freedom of Information Act to access CRS reports because the FOIA applies only to the executive branch, not Congress.


So groups like the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) and the Sunlight Foundation and The New York Times have come out in support of opening CRS reports to the public.


“Given the extreme partisanship and gridlock in Congress, it’s more crucial than ever to have an informed electorate,” the Times wrote in an editorial.


POGO’s Sean Moulton and Iulia Gheorghiu wrote, “Such an important resource ought to be accessible to the public, to provide readers with unbiased, non-partisan analysis.”


“We’re not asking for the moon!” they added. “Expanding access to the public would not have to take away from the research group’s resources. Given recent legislative branch cuts, it’s understandable if the office has to scale up transparency in stages.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

More Calls for Access to CRS’s Formal Reports (Sean Moulton and Iulia Gheorghiu, Project on Government Oversight)

Growing Chorus Calling for CRS Reports to be Open to the Public (by Matthew Rumsey, Sunlight Foundation)

Congressional Research Belongs to the Public (New York Times Editorial Board)

House Committee Bars Publication of Reports by Congressional Research Service (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)


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