By Elizabeth Holland
Today, AALL joined a coalition of 40 organizations and 90+ individuals to call on Congress to expand public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports. In a letter sent to the leadership of the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, House Committee on House Administration, and Joint Committee on the Library, which share jurisdiction over CRS, we urge the implementation of systematic public access to non-confidential CRS reports. Many individual law librarians also signed the letter.
American taxpayers spend more than $100 million annually to fund the CRS, yet current distribution of these reports is uneven and often expensive. CRS reports are only distributed directly to members of Congress, who can then decide whether or not to distribute them publicly. Those Capitol Hill insiders who know to ask their lawmakers for specific reports by name or who can afford to pay for them in a secondary market are able to access these useful reports, while many students, researchers, and other members of the public are not.
CRS reports play an important role in the legislative process by serving as an authoritative and unbiased source of information for legislators and staff. Over the past 10 years, CRS reports have been cited in 190 federal court opinions, more than 100 articles in the New York Times and the Washington Post, and are often published in the record of legislative proceedings. The public deserves a consistent and official way to access the non-classified, non-biased information CRS provides. The Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Budget Office, the Law Library of Congress, and 85 percent of G-20 countries with similar parliamentary research offices already make their reports available to the public. We urge Congress to see to it that CRS follow suit.