Free Public Access To Congressional Research Service Reports

FY18 OmnibusFree Public Access To Congressional Research Service ReportsSomething we've long advocated for, and a small win for the taxpayer.

Budget & Tax,  | Quick Take
Mar 22, 2018  | 2 min read | Print Article

We’re happy to see something we’ve advocated for in the past – free public access to Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports:

From page 1095:

AVAILABILITY OF CRS REPORTS THROUGH LIBRARY OF CONGRESS WEBSITE.—  (1) WEBSITE.—  (A) ESTABLISHMENT AND MAINTENANCE.—The Librarian of Congress, in consultation with the CRS Director, shall establish and maintain a public website containing CRS Reports and an index of all CRS Reports contained on the website, in accordance with this subsection. (B) FORMAT.—On the Website, CRS Reports shall be searchable, sortable, and downloadable, including downloadable in bulk. (C) FREE ACCESS.—Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Librarian of Congress may not charge a fee for access to the Website. (2) UPDATES; DISCLAIMER.—The Librarian of Congress, in consultation with the CRS Director, shall ensure that the Website— (A) is updated contemporaneously, automatically, and electronically to include each new or updated CRS Report released on or after the effective date of this section; (B) shows the status of each CRS Report as new, updated, or archived; and (C) displays the following statement in reference to the CRS Reports included on the Website: ‘‘These documents were prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

The CRS’s mission is to “… provide authoritative, confidential, nonpartisan, and objective research and analysis to Congress.” But the public has not been able to see most of the research the CRS produces because its reports were not available publicly. We’ve always found this act to be a ridiculous restriction of valuable taxpayer-funded information, and we have called for this change for a long time. In fact, a side industry profited from making reports available for those who paid them. A black market of congressional research, if you will.

Although this is after the fact, and does nothing to improve the undue haste with which a detailed tome worth trillions gets decided upon behind closed doors, the fact of having legislation even a little bit more transparent is a small win for the taxpayer.