Senators Leahy and Cornyn Put Bipartisan Faster FOIA Back on Track

UPDATED: This week Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) regained ground lost on the non-controversial, bipartisan Faster FOIA Act during last week’s rush to push House legislation to address the debt ceiling.

In a move Patrice McDermott, Director of OpenTheGovernment.org, described as a "set back for openness and accountability," House Republican leadership opted to strip all Faster FOIA provisions from S. 627, Senators Leahy’s and Cornyn’s bill, and replace the text with Speaker Boehner’s debt proposal (Budget Control Act of 2011). The move, which was intended to shave a few days off Senate consideration of the bill, ultimately erased the work of the Senate to pass the bill earlier this year.

On Monday, August 1, Senators Leahy and Cornyn reintroduced their original bill and it was approved unanimously by the Senate – again. The new bill number is S. 1466.

The Faster FOIA act establishes the Commission on FOIA Processing Delays. Despite a fairly recent Congressional effort (the OPEN Government Act of 2007) to make FOIA processes more efficient, backlogs, delays and other administrative issues continue to frustrate FOIA requesters. The Commission would study and make recommendations to Congress and the President for addressing some of the thorniest problems that keep the public from being able to gain access to records of the government.

We continue to urge the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to move the bill forward. For 45 years the public has relied on FOIA to help keep it informed about what the government is doing, and to hold officials accountable for their actions. It is time we figure out how to make the law work better for everyone.

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