On July 28, a dozen organizations wrote to House and Senate leadership urging them to restore the bipartisan Faster FOIA provisions in S. 627, now known as the Budget Control Act of 2011.
We understand Speaker Boehner opted to use S. 627 as a vehicle to move his debt relief package because it could shave a few days off of Senate consideration. However, in doing so, the Speaker unnecessarily stripped the Faster FOIA Act from S.627, completely replacing the language with the budget bill. If the Faster FOIA language is not restored in S. 627, the bipartisan progress made by the Senate on the legislation will be completely wiped out. This is a setback for openness and accountability in the executive branch, and bipartisan action in Congress.
The Senate unanimously passed the Faster FOIA Act, authored by Senator Leahy (D-VT) and Senator Cornyn (R-TX) in May. The legislation would establish the Commission on Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Processing Delays (the Commission) to examine several thorny issues that create unreasonable bars to public access under the FOIA and recommend to Congress and the President steps that should be taken to reduce delays and make the administration of the FOIA equitable and efficient throughout the federal government.
The Faster FOIA Act enjoys strong support among a broad range of non-governmental organizations. Recently, more than 35 organizations joined to urge the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to act on the legislation. A recent editorial in the Washington Post also called on the House to embrace the bill in the same bipartisan spirit as the Senate in the interest of improving the FOIA process.