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Congressional Record: February 6, 2001 (Senate)
Page S1058-S1059


  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I am pleased to join today with Senator 
McCain to introduce a Senate resolution to provide Internet Access to 
important Congressional documents.
  Our bipartisan resolution makes certain Congressional Research 
Service products, lobbyist disclosure reports and Senate gift 
disclosure reports available over the Internet to the American people.
  The Congressional Research Service, CRS, has a well-known reputation 
for producing high-quality reports and information briefs that are 
unbiased, concise, and accurate. The taxpayers of this country, who pay 
$67 million a year to fund the CRS, deserve speedy access to these 
public resources and have a right to see that their money is being 
spent well.
  The goal of our legislation is to allow every citizen the same access 
to the wealth of CRS information as a Member of Congress enjoys today. 
CRS performs invaluable research and produces first-rate reports on 
hundreds of topics. American taxpayers have every right to direct 
access to these wonderful resources.
  Online CRS reports will serve an important role in informing the 
public. Members of the public will be able to read these CRS products 
and receive a concise, accurate summary of the issues before the 
Congress. As elected representatives, we should do what we can to 
promote an informed, educated public. The educated voter is best able 
to make decisions and petition us to do the right things here in 
  Our legislation follows the model online CRS program in the House of 
Representatives and ensures that private CRS products will remain 
protected by giving the CRS Director the authority to hold back any 
products that are deemed confidential. Moreover, the Director may 
protect the identity of CRS researchers and any copyrighted material. 
We can do both--protect confidential material and empower our citizens 
through electronic access to invaluable CRS products.
  In addition, the bipartisan resolution would provide public online 
access to lobbyist reports and gift disclosure forms. At present, these 
public records are available in the Senate Office of Public Records in 
Room 232 of the Hart Building. As a practical matter, these public 
records are accessible only to those inside the Beltway.
  I applaud the Office of Public Records for recently making 
technological history in the Senate by providing for lobbying 
registrations through the Internet. The next step is to provide the 
completed lobbyist disclosure reports on the Internet for all Americans 
to see.
  The Internet offers us a unique opportunity to allow the American 
people to have everyday access to this public information. Our 
bipartisan legislation would harness the power of the Information Age 
to allow average citizens to see these public records of the Senate in 
their official form, in context and without editorial comment. All 
Americans should have timely access to the information that we already 
have voted to give them.
  And all of these reports are indeed ``public'' for those who can 
afford to hire a lawyer or lobbyist or who can afford to travel to 
Washington to come to the Office of Public Records in the Hart Building 
and read them. That is not very public. That does not do very much for 
the average voter in Vermont or the rest of this country outside of 
easy reach of Washington. That does not meet the spirit in which we 
voted to make these materials public, when we voted ``disclosure'' 
  We can do better, and this resolution does better. Any citizen in any 
corner of this country with access to a computer at home or the office 
or at the public library will be able to get on the Internet and get 
these important Congressional documents under our resolution. It allows 
individual citizens to check the facts, to make comparisons, and to 
make up their own minds.
  I commend the Senior Senator from Arizona for his leadership on 
opening public access to Congressional documents. I share his desire 
for the American people to have electronic access to many more 
Congressional resources. I look forward to working with him in the days 
to let the information age open up the halls of Congress to all our 

[[Page S1059]]

  As Thomas Jefferson wrote, ``Information is the currency of 
democracy.'' Our democracy is stronger if all citizens have equal 
access to at least that type of currency, and that is something which 
Members on both sides of the aisle can celebrate and join in.
  This bipartisan resolution is an important step in informing and 
empowering American citizens. I urge my colleagues to join us in 
supporting this legislation to make available useful Congressional 
information to the American people.



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