Take Action! Calls and Letters Still Needed for the Presidential Records Act

January 31, 2008

UPDATE:

On January 22, the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007” (H.R. 1255) was held up in the Senate by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) brought H.R. 1255 to the floor under Unanimous Consent during the evening of January 22, which would have allowed the bill to quickly move through the Senate. Sen. Sessions objected without explanation. If you live in Alabama, we need to you to ask Sen. Sessions to lift his hold! We are also still encouraging you to write to your Senator to co-sponsor the bill. See below for more information.

BACKGROUND:

The “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007” would restore standards for the timely release of Presidential records and nullify Executive Order 13233, which President Bush issued in 2001. The Bush E.O. gave current and former presidents and vice presidents broad authority to withhold presidential records. The legislation would reverse the Bush E.O. by establishing a deadline for the review of records, limiting the authority of former presidents to withhold records, requiring the president to make privilege claims personally, and eliminating the ability for Vice Presidents to assert executive privilege claims over vice presidential records. You can read more about the Presidential Records Act in our Issue Brief.

TAKE ACTION!

There are two things you can do to help this bill move through the Senate:

1. If your Senator is not a co-sponsor, send him or her an email to request he or she consider co-sponsoring to show support for the bill. S.886 cleared the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs (HSGA) this summer, but it is stalled in the Senate and Committee members need to hear from you. Only Committee Members Lieberman, Obama, and Sununu have signed on to co-sponsor. See a sample letter in our Action Alert. In addition, if your Senator is already a co-sponsor, send him or her a thank you note!

2. If you live in Alabama, write to Sen. Sessions to ask him to lift his hold. See a sample letter in our Action Alert.

If you prefer to call your Senator, may use the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121 to call your Senator’s office. Tell the staffer you are a constituent, and either ask that your Senator sign on to co-sponsor the “Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2007” or thank your Senator for co-sponsoring.

If you hear back from your Senator, please let us know! You may send a copy of his or her response or just send me a note.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


E-Government Reauthorization Moving in the Senate

January 31, 2008

On December 11, 2007, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing on the E-Government Reauthorization Act of 2007 (S. 2321). The legislation, introduced one month earlier by Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-CT), would reauthorize the E-Government Act of 2002 and add a provision to improve the searchability of government websites.

I attended the hearing, E-Government 2.0: Improving Innovation, Collaboration, and Access”. The hearing explored three topics, as introduced by Chairman Lieberman: how close the government has come to reaching the goal of the E-Government Act of 2002; the problem of the searchability of government websites; and how new collaborative technologies can strengthen interaction among government agencies and the public. Witnesses included Karen S. Evans [testimony] , Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government and Information Technology within the Office of Management and Budget; John Lewis Needham [testimony], Manager of Public Sector Content Partnerships at Google; Ari Schwartz [testimony], Deputy Director of the Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT); and Jimmy Wales [testimony], Founder of Wikipedia. CDT and OMB Watch released a report, “Hiding in Plain Sight: Why Important Government Information Cannot Be Found Through Commercial Search Engines,” addressing the problems of searchability of government websites.

At the hearing, Chairman Lieberman also introduced S.RES.401 to provide the public with access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) publications online. CRS is the non-partisan public policy research arm of Congress and produces reports for members of Congress on legislative issues. Constituents may request reports from their representatives. Several non-profit groups (through Open CRS ) and academic sites have been offering access to selected reports (see Guide to CRS Reports on the Web), but this resolution would provide expanded, comprehensive, and free access to these reports. We support this measure, along with the E-Government Reauthorization bill.

[Posted by Emily Feldman]


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