Commentary: Congressional Research Service reports should be easily accessible to public

This editorial appeared in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Through the University of North Texas Library, you can link to Congressional Research Service reports about Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito's votes in abortion cases when he was an appellate judge; answers to frequently asked questions about the Troubled Asset Relief Program; the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the National Flood Insurance Program; and proposals to exempt recreational boats from water quality regulation.

Don't roll your eyes at how dry and wonkish those topics sound.

These are well-researched, fact-based, dispassionate papers designed to help members of Congress analyze issues and shape the best policies to serve the public.

They're also reports prepared largely at taxpayer expense.

Why, then, can you find them through UNT (a federal depository library) and other online sources but not directly through CRS, the research arm of Congress?

Darn good question.

Librarians, researchers, open-government advocates and some elected representatives have been trying for years to make CRS reports directly accessible by the public.

But it takes an act of Congress – specifically, permission from the House Administration Committee or Senate Rules Committee. Or passage of Senate Resolution 118, sponsored by Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.; John McCain, R-Ariz.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Russ Feingold, D-Wis.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Susan Collins, R-Maine; and Richard Lugar, R-Ind.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Fort Worth Star-Telegram.