The House has an opportunity to pass a meaningful Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) reform bill today that will force federal agencies to be more accountable to the public. While we understand that the bill, S. 2520, is jostling for position on the House schedule with many other pieces of legislation, we urge Congressional leadership to not miss this window of opportunity.
S. 2520, and it's House companion bill, HR 1211, passed their respective bodies with no opposition. Good bipartisan work was critical to achieving this result. Particularly on the Senate side, though, the vote belies the difficulty open government advocates had in bringing the bill to a vote. As many people are aware, the Senate bill barely squeaked out after an attempt by Senator Rockefeller to kill the bill by placing an 11th hour hold on the legislation.
Senator Rockefeller placed his hold after listening to concerns from the Federal Trade Commission and other independent agencies that the bill would somehow limit their ability to do their jobs and place an administrative burden on them. In reality, there are several provisions in S.2520 that will make the FOIA process more efficient for agencies and the public. Besides the fact that the complaints about administrative burden are untrue, you have to remember that every time FOIA reform is proposed, agencies oppose the changes because of administrative burden. Thankfully when agencies raise these concerns Congress has over-ruled them because the ability of the public to hold agency officials accountable is critical to having the government we want.
The political reality of the situation is that is S.2520 fails to pass in this Congress, independent agencies like the FTC and other components of the career civil service that do not want to be held more accountable will work even harder to bottle it up during the next Congress.
The 113th Congress has already passed a lot of ground-breaking open government legislation, including the DATA Act and the Presidential and Federal Records Act. Let's add one more accomplishment to the list, Speaker Boehner!
Please put S. 2520 on the schedule for a vote TODAY.