The House Judiciary Committee favorably reported the Protecting Reporters from Exploitative State Spying Act (PRESS) Act, 23-0. This is positive news that we welcome, as the PRESS Act is critical legislation that would protect reporters and their technology providers from revealing their confidential sources and underscores the importance of protecting a free press from federal abuse of subpoena power.
“Journalists must be able to freely report on government actions without fear the government will compel them to reveal their sources,” said Daniel Schuman, policy director at Demand Progress. “We commend the House Judiciary Committee for its bipartisan support of the PRESS Act, legislation to protect First Amendment freedoms and shield journalists from being compelled to disclose their sources. The Senate must act now to advance this important legislation.”
The PRESS Act would protect reporters and their technology providers from revealing their confidential sources and from federal abuse of subpoena power, a legal protection already available in 49 states. The bill provides some exceptions to these prohibitions such as in cases involving risk of imminent personal bodily harm or death, terrorism, the commission of crimes unrelated to journalism, and slander, libel, and defamation.
Administrations of both parties have often gone after journalists who have exposed the truth about waste, fraud, abuse, and malfeasance to intimidate them. Although the Department of Justice last year adopted a new policy restricting subpoenas and seizures from journalists, it could just as easily be suspended, ignored, or secretly altered. Importantly, the PRESS Act would codify into law this prohibition, making it real and permanent.
Today, Rep. Kevin Kiley and Rep. Jamie Raskin in the House and Sen. Ron Wyden, Sen. Mike Lee, and Sen. Durbin in the Senate reintroduced the Protecting Reporters from Exploitative State Spying (PRESS) Act, legislation that prohibits overreach by government prosecutors seeking to extract confidential information and sources from reporters and their communications providers.
The reintroduction of this strong journalist shield legislation in both chambers demonstrates a commendable and bipartisan commitment by its sponsors to ensure First Amendment freedoms and accountability journalism can thrive.
Continue reading “Demand Progress Statement on Today’s Reintroduction of the PRESS Act”
The 116th Congress is coming to a close, with Members getting ready to depart to campaign full-time and then return in late-November/December for a lame duck session. Time is running out before bills turn into pumpkins and have to be re-introduced at the start of the next Congress. According to GovTrack, 151 bills have become law so far. By comparison, 12,874 bills have been introduced, or 1.1%, although some of these bills are duplicates of ones that have become law.
We and our friends in civil society have compiled a non-exhaustive list of pending good government bills that lawmakers should consider pushing across the finish line before time runs out. As legislation that’s further along in the process is more likely to become law, we’ve sorted our list by their status. We’ve further subdivided the list regarding the part of government they would affect.
Continue reading “Pending Good Government Bills: 116th Congress”
The House passed a bill last week designed to bring the Franking Commission into the 21st century. The Communications Outreach Media and Mail Standards Act, or COMMS Act (H.R.7512), extends the commission’s authority to regulate mass communications (i.e., to 500 people or more) by Members and Members-elect. The commission’s authority has historically been limited to mailings but the new language refers to a wider range of communications.
Continue reading “House Advances Franking Modernization Bill”
by Jason Briefel and Maggi Molina
A president will appoint more than 4,000 individuals to serve in an administration, yet “there is no single source of data on political appointees serving in the executive branch that is publicly available, comprehensive, and timely,” according to the Government Accountability Office in a March 2019 report.
Instead, these positions are compiled and published exactly once every four years in a congressional document known as the Plum Book (officially the United States Government Policy and Supporting Positions). This book is published only in December after a presidential election (before the president even gets sworn in) and includes important data for each position, including title, salary and location.
Continue reading “The PLUM Act: Transparency for Political Appointees”
Chair Yarmuth of the House Budget Committee partnered with House and Senate chairs (Chair Lowey of House Appropriations, Chair Maloney of House Oversight and Reform and Senate Appropriations Vice Chair Leahy) to introduce the bicameral (but not bipartisan) Congressional Power of the Purse Act (H.R.6628).
Continue reading “New Bill Reclaiming the Congressional Power of the Purse”
(Update, 04/24/20): On April 3, we provided a summary of all the congressional actions related to signing statements. Here is an analysis of the common themes in the legislation:
- Requires the Executive to give Congress notice and reasoning for all statements.
- Bars government entities (including state and federal courts) from using signing statements in interpreting the law.
- Gives Congress standing to seek declaratory relief, allows Congress to intervene in cases or allows Congress to issue “clarifying” statement.
- Requires AG, Deputy AG, White House Counsel to testify before Judiciary at the behest of any single member to explain; can’t invoke executive privilege.
- Limits funds made available to the Executive to produce, publish, or disseminate any signing statement.
- Cuts off funding authorized or expended to implement any law accompanied by a signing statement if Executive doesn’t comply with congressional restrictions on signing statements.
(Original Article) Following up on our discussion of Signing Statements (triggered by the President’s signing statement on the coronavirus relief legislation), here are the hearings and legislation we found on the subject. If we missed something, please email [email protected].
Continue reading “Presidential Signing Statements: Congressional Actions”
Yesterday, the House overwhelmingly passed H.Res 756, the bipartisan resolution voted unanimously out of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (SCOMC). The resolution includes 29 recommendations that aim to make Congress more effective, efficient and transparent. Some of these recommendations include taking critical steps to improve staff retention and diversity, updating House technology and security, and increasing public access to congressional offices and information.
SCOMC, by definition, does not have any legislative authority. The passage of this resolution marks the first time that legislative action has resulted from a select committee. SCOMC has held 16 hearings and numerous Member and staff-level briefings and listening sessions to solicit ideas and recommendations for reforming the legislative branch since March 2019.
Continue reading “House Passes Modernization Committee Resolution”
Good news for Hill staff and Congressional spending nerds alike: the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has made some significant improvements to how it publishes data.
The agency, which is responsible for advising Congress on the potential economic impact of legislation, announced several transparency-friendly changes on its site last week. Changes include: Continue reading “CBO Changes Make Finding Bill Scores Easy”
We have good news for fans of government accountability and cleaning up the swamp: Rep. Mike Quigley has re-introduced the Transparency in Government Act (TGA). The bill is essentially a menu of everything needed to bring greater transparency to the federal government.
Major provisions of the bill include:
Continue reading “Comprehensive Good Government Bill Re-Introduced by Rep. Quigley”