Update on CRS Annual Reports

On Halloween we posted a spooky story on the disappearance of CRS’s Annual Reports. The annual reports to Congress explain what the agency has been doing the past year — and what it plans to do — and, for our purposes, contain some useful statistical data that we want for a report we are writing on how usage of CRS’s services have changed over time. The reports contain other information, such the priorities for the components inside CRS, management’s focus, and a list of all CRS reports issued that year.

The thing is, we were able to find CRS’s Annual Reports from 1971-1980, and from 1995 to present, but a huge tranche of the reports were missing. The October blogpost details everywhere that we (unsuccessfully) looked, including our efforts to go through unofficial and semi-official channels to obtain copies. Finally, we submitted this public records request to the Library on August 8, 2019. This Friday would have marked six months since our request. (Six months for documents that likely were originally publicly available, at least at the time of submission!) Continue reading “Update on CRS Annual Reports”

CRS Publishes Some of its Reports, With Promises of More to Come

A subset of current CRS reports was published online by the Library of Congress on Tuesday. While federal law mandated the Library publish by September 18 any non-confidential final written work product of CRS containing research or analysis in any format that is available for general congressional access and that was published after the date of enactment of the legislation on the CRS Congressional Intranet, CRS published only the R series reports, totalling in the low six hundreds. As longtime CRS watcher and report publisher Steven Aftergood noted, “other CRS product lines — including CRS In Focus, CRS Insight, and CRS Legal Sidebar — are not currently available through the public portal.”

The Librarian of Congress implicitly addressed this gap in her blogpost, writing “we worked closely with Congress to make sure that we had a mutual understanding of the law’s requirements,” hinting at a behind-the-scenes agreement with appropriators. It could also be a response to criticism leveled by us (with R Street and GovTrack) concerning problems in the Library’s implementation plan. Continue reading “CRS Publishes Some of its Reports, With Promises of More to Come”

Plan for Publishing CRS Reports Falls Short

In March, new legislation from Congress required the Library of Congress publish all non-confidential Congressional Research Service reports online by September 19th of this year. That deadline is rapidly approaching and while congressional and civil society concerns about the library’s implementation plan remain unaddressed, the Librarian of Congress, Dr. Hayden, declined a direct request from Rep. Lofgren for the Librarian to meet with civil society about improving the website. Continue reading “Plan for Publishing CRS Reports Falls Short”

Library Plan to Publish CRS Reports Falls Short of the Law, Is Unduly Expensive

Civil society, students, librarians, and the general public were elated when Congress decided to make the non-confidential non-partisan reports issued by the Congressional Research Service publicly available. These reports are often referred to as the gold standard for information concerning the issues before Congress.

We have obtained the Library of Congress’s implementation plan to make CRS reports available to the public, as required by 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Law. Unfortunately, it does not comport with the law or best practices for creating websites and is unusually expensive.

Today we release the Library’s May 22, 2018, CRS website implementation plan and civil society’s June 6, 2018 memo that responds to that plan. We hope that in doing so we will bring to the surface some of the problems with the CRS reports website’s proposed implementation so they can be fixed in time for the statutory deadline. (The Federation of American Scientists published on Friday a memo to congressional staff about the Library’s plans, but this is different from the implementation plan.) Continue reading “Library Plan to Publish CRS Reports Falls Short of the Law, Is Unduly Expensive”

Transparency Provisions Inside the FY18 Appropriations Law

1_Aq7GuiYrB1MzgkYX19AjbgThe recently-signed omnibus spending law contains transparency provisions intended to make our federal government just a little more open and accountable. They include: creating a hub for the reports that explain each agency’s federal spending request; a first step towards opening up federal court orders for everyone to read without charge; creating a central repository for reports by the federal Inspectors General; and making reports by the Congressional Research Service available to everyone.

While all these measures are important, the hardest fought is public access to CRS reports. CRS provides non-partisan unbiased explanations of policy matters before Congress, and they make it easier for all of us to have conversations based on the facts.

Continue reading “Transparency Provisions Inside the FY18 Appropriations Law”

For The First Time, More than 8,200 Congressional Research Service Reports Available Online

New Civil Society Website Makes Available to the American People Reports Previously Available to Congressional Staff and DC Insiders

Contact: Daniel Schuman, Demand Progress
202–577–6100, daniel@demandprogress.org


Washington, DC— October 19, 2016 — More than 8,200 reports authored by the Congressional Research Service, Congress’ think-tank, were published online today at EveryCRSReport.com by Demand Progress, a progressive grassroots organization with 2 million members that works to build a modern democracy. CRS reports contain non-partisan, in-depth analysis of important issues before Congress, ranging from telecommunications to privacy to social security and more, and are written to help members of Congress understand the policy choices they must make. Continue reading “For The First Time, More than 8,200 Congressional Research Service Reports Available Online”

Why I Came To Believe CRS Reports Should be Publicly Available (and Built a Website to Make it Happen)

I first started working for Congress as a senate intern in September 2001. I was 23 years old and had no experience working on policy. I found myself responding to letters from constituents on issues that I’d never heard of previously. It was then that I first encountered the Congressional Research Service and its reports.

The Congressional Research Service, sometimes called Congress’ think-tank, provided introductory classes to orient interns on the service. It was fascinating to see all the different kinds of analysis performed by CRS — and there were rooms filled, just loaded with reports on every issue that you could imagine. CRS also provided classes on how Congress worked. It was a great way to learn.

I worked for Congress for the next year or so, eventually rising to become a (very) low-level staffer. Occasionally I spoke with analysts, but generally speaking the reports often were enough. CRS emphasized that its advice was non-partisan and even-handed. When I left, I did what many departing staff did, and took an armful of reports with me. Continue reading “Why I Came To Believe CRS Reports Should be Publicly Available (and Built a Website to Make it Happen)”

House Appropriators Turn Back Public Access to CRS Reports, but Not Without a Fight

Today the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee debated two amendments that would make Congressional Research Service reports more equitably available to the public. The effort to release the reports was led by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL) and Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA).

Here is the bill considered by the committee and the committee report. We submitted testimony to the committee with a number of recommendations for action and we strongly support public access to CRS reports. Continue reading “House Appropriators Turn Back Public Access to CRS Reports, but Not Without a Fight”

Thoughts on Public Access to CRS Reports and the Next Librarian of Congress: Watching Hayden Testify

Second row view of Dr. Hayden testifying before Sens. Blunt and Schumer, taken by the author.

Yesterday I sat behind Dr. Carla Hayden as she testified on her pending nomination as Librarian of Congress before the Senate Rules committee. It was a surprisingly emotional moment, as I waited among her friends and family who were so very excited to see an amazing woman nominated for this high honor. Her mother was there, who was impressively poised and elegant among the crowd of well wishers. Many had traveled a long distance to be there today. Continue reading “Thoughts on Public Access to CRS Reports and the Next Librarian of Congress: Watching Hayden Testify”