MCCAIN, LEAHY HOLD PRESS CONFERENCE IN SUPPORT OF OPEN ACCESS TO GOVERNMENT DOCUMENTS
February 11, 2003
Washington, DC - U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) today held a press conference to announce their intention to introduce a resolution to make Congressional Research Service (CRS) products available to the public over the internet. The senators were joined by the Project on Government Oversight. Senator McCain's comments follow:
"I would like to start off by thanking the Project on Government Oversight for inviting Senator Leahy and myself to this press conference to announce the release of their report, "Congressional Research Service Products: Taxpayers Should Have Easy Access." I heartily support providing the public ready and free access to government documents and decisions.
"Consistent with the report's recommendations, we plan to reintroduce our resolution to make CRS reports available to the public over the Internet. This resolution also would require the Senate Office of Public Records to put other selected documents related to Members' receipt of honoraria and travel reimbursement on the Internet. In addition, it would urge Senate Committees to make bills, reports, and official transcripts of committee meetings, available to the public over the Internet.
"This legislation is cosponsored by Senators Leahy, Lieberman, and Harkin. It is also supported by a variety of organizations including the American Library Association, the Congressional Accountability Project, Common Cause, Public Citizen, the Center for Democracy and Technology.
"The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is well-known for producing high quality reports and issue briefs that are concise, factual, and unbiased - a rarity in Washington. Many of us have used these products to make decisions on legislative proposals as diverse as homeland security, the implications of war with Iraq, the future of the Internet, health care reform, and tax policy. Also, we routinely send these products to our constituents in order to help them understand the important issues of our time.
"The American public paid over $81 million in Fiscal Year 2002 to fund CRS' operations. As this report makes clear, it is important that the public have access to these CRS reports.
"By making these reports available, the Senate will serve the important function of informing their constituents. Members of the public will be able to read these CRS products and receive a concise summary of issues that concern them. These reports will help voters make decisions and petition their legislators on how to represent them.
"Currently, the public has to obtain these reports through independent companies, such as Penny Hill Press which charges almost $30 for each report. Meanwhile, corporations, universities, and other well-heeled entities can hire former Members of Congress as lobbyists and get access to these reports.
"However, the general public does not have access to these reports. Instead, they must search through a variety of government and non-government web sites for outdated reports or get them from their Members of Congress through the mail.
"If the Senate passes our resolution, the public will be able to find these reports easily on the Internet. This resolution will ensure more wide-spread dissemination of information, and encourage Americans to find out more about their government. Interested and educated voters are vital to a flourishing democracy.
"In conclusion, I want to again thank the Project on Government Oversight for this helpful report. I hope that it serves as an incentive for our government to more fully join the information age."
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