The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Saturday, November 22, 2003

They killed our access to CRS Reports! You bastards!

In the previous piece, looking at the question of riders to appropriation bills, I find with relief that there is a CRS Report on that very subject [1]. I go to Rep Mark Green's CRS page - to find that they have all vanished! I've been there a good many times, but, obviously not so much recently. (FAS have a CRS page, but only for foreign and defence reports, and I've been getting my CRS fixes there for a while, I reckon.)

I find that Rep Chris Shays had a similar deal - his CRS page has gone, too.

A little digging proves this to be conspiracy, not cock-up: the Shays/Green access was an experiment, according to this - which CRS is not planning to restart.

A WaPo piece (February 17) goes further: it refers to S Res 54 from John McCain - designed to put a proper system of net access to CRS Reports in place - but makes clear that the CRS are positively Siberian about the idea:
The CRS, however, has issued a terse response to the idea, saying that it is not designed to perform -- at least not directly -- a "public information function" and that courts have upheld its role as a "confidential and exclusive adviser to Congress."

The CRS has opposed similar plans for years, arguing, in more loquacious moments, that it would create many legal and practical problems that would distract its 700 analysts from their mission. In 1998, the CRS said interest groups, lobbyists and critics of all stripes would likely inundate the agency with comments and complaints, trying to steer its reports in a particular direction, if the reports were widely distributed.

The service also mentioned fears that it might be held liable for comments made in the reports -- or that it might be sued for copyright infringement.

Charles Dickens' Circumlocution Office scarcely contained a greater concentration of jobsworths!

Why did the CRS allow the Shays/Green experiment in the first place? I sense a soap opera here of Guiding Light dimensions...

  1. CRS Report RL30337 (pdf), Legislative Provisions ("Riders") in Annual Appropriation Acts: Illustrative Examples, by Robert Keith. Reference, but no link, from here.

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