[Congressional Record: May 24, 2007 (Senate)]
[Page S6829-S6830]

                          OPEN GOVERNMENT ACT

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I am deeply disappointed that the Senate 
may not consider the Openness Promotes Effectiveness in our National 
Government Act,'' the OPEN Government Act, S. 849, before it adjourns 
for the Memorial Day recess. The Judiciary Committee favorably reported 
this bipartisan bill. We have filed a committee report on this 
important legislation. Regrettably, an anonymous Republican hold is 
stalling this important Freedom of Information Act, FOIA, legislation, 
needlessly delaying long-overdue reforms to strengthen FOIA and to 
protect the public's right to know.
  It is both unfortunate and ironic that this bipartisan bill, which 
promotes sunshine and openness in our government, is being hindered by 
a secret and anonymous hold. This is a good government bill that 
Democrats and Republicans alike, can and should work together to enact. 
I hope that the Senator placing the secret hold on this bill will come 
forward, so that we can resolve any legitimate concerns, and the full 
Senate can promptly act on this legislation.
  The OPEN Government Act is cosponsored by 10 Senators from both sides 
of the aisle. This bill is also endorsed by more than 100 business, 
public interest, and news organizations from across the political and 
ideological spectrum, including, the American Library Association, 
Conservation Congress, the Liberty Coalition, OpenTheGovernment.org, 
the Sunshine in Government Initiative, the Republican Liberty Caucus 
and Public Citizen.
  I thank all of the cosponsors of this bill and commend Senator Cornyn 
as our lead Republican sponsor. I also thank the many open government 
organizations that are working tirelessly to encourage the Congress to 
enact this bill this year. This measure is cleared for passage on the 
Democratic side. It should be passed without further delay.
  The OPEN Government Act promotes and enhances public disclosure of 
government information under FOIA, by helping Americans to obtain 
timely responses to their FOIA requests and improving transparency in 
the Federal Government's FOIA process. During the recent hearing that 
the Judiciary Committee held on this legislation, we learned that, 
although FOIA remains an indispensable tool in shedding light on bad 
policies and government abuses, this open government law is being 
hampered by excessive delays and lax FOIA compliance. Today, Americans 
who seek information under FOIA remain less likely to obtain it than 
during any other time in FOIA's 40-year history. This bill would help 
to reverse this trend and to restore the public's trust in their 
  Senator Cornyn and I both know that open government is not a 
Democratic issue or a Republican issue. It is an American issue. It is 
in this spirit that I urge the removal of the anonymous hold placed on 
this bill. I also urge all Members of the Senate to join me in 
supporting this important open government legislation.
  We have received numerous letters of support from such organizations 
as the American Library Association, the National Press Club, Pubic 
Citizen, Sunshine in Government Initiative and OpenTheGovernment.org. I 
ask unanimous consent that a letter in support sent to the majority and 
Republican leaders of the Senate and endorsed by more than 100 
organizations from across the political spectrum be printed in the 
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:
                                                     May 17, 2007.
     Hon. Harry Reid,
      Hart Senate Office Building,
     Washington, DC.
     Hon. Mitch McConnell
     Russell Senate Office Building,
     Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Reid and Senator McConnell: We write on behalf 
     of the undersigned group of 100 business, public interest, 
     and historical groups and associations to endorse the OPEN 
     Government Act of 2007 (S. 849), as introduced by Senator 
     Patrick Leahy and Senator John Cornyn.
       The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is the public's most 
     significant tool for ensuring integrity and accountability 
     from the federal government. Unfortunately, FOIA's promise of 
     ensuring an open and accountable government has been 
     seriously undermined by the excessive processing delays that 
     FOIA requesters face across the government. The OPEN 
     Government Act would: Close loopholes in FOIA; Help the 
     public get timely responses to FOIA requests; and Improve 
     agency accountability and require better management of FOIA 
       The public's confidence in the executive branch has reached 
     a dramatic low point. The OPEN Government Act of 2007 would 
     demonstrate bipartisan congressional leadership to restore 
     public faith in government and to advance the ideals of 
     openness that our democracy embodies. The Senate Judiciary 
     Committee has reported favorably upon the bill without any 
     amendments. We urge you to support this legislation and help 
     it move quickly to the Senate floor for a vote.
       Alliance for Justice
       America Association of Law Libraries
       American Association of Small Property Owners
       American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
       American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
       American Families United
       American Library Association
       Animal Welfare Institute
       Assassination Archives and Research Center
       Association of American Publishers
       Bill of Rights Defense Committee
       Biodiversity Conservation Alliance
       Blancett Ranches, Aztec, NM
       Californians Aware
       Californians for Western Wilderness
       Center for Democracy and Technology
       Center for Energy Research
       Center for National Security Studies
       Citizen Action New Mexico
       Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
       Common Cause
       Community Recovery Services
       Conservation Congress
       Doctors for Open Government
       DownsizeDC.org, Inc.
       The E-Accountability
       Electronic Frontier Foundation
       Environmental Defense Institute
       Environmental Integrity Project
       Ethics in Government Group
       Fernald Residents for Environmental Safety & Health, Inc.
       Florida First Amendment Foundation
       Forest Guardians
       Friends Committee on National Legislation
       Friends of Animals
       Friends of the Wild Swan
       Georgia ForestWatch
       Georgians for Open Government
       Government Accountability Project
       Great Basin Mine Watch
       Gun Owners of America
       HALT, Inc
       The Health Integrity Project
       HEAL Utah
       The Humane Society of the United States
       Idaho Sporting Congress, Inc.
       Indiana Coalition for Open Government
       The James Madison Project
       Law Librarian Association of Greater New York
       Law Librarians Association of Wisconsin
       League of Women Voters of the U.S.
       Liberty Coalition
       Los Alamos Study Group
       Maine Association of Broadcasters
       Mine Safety and Health News
       The Multiracial Activist
       National Coalition Against Censorship
       National Freedom ofInformation Coalition
       National Security Archive
       National Taxpayers Union
       National Treasury Employees Union
       National WhistIeblower Center
       Natural Resources Defense Council
       The New Grady Coalition
       No FEAR Coalition
       Northern California Association of Law Libraries
       Northwest Environmental Advocates
       Nuclear Watch New Mexico
       Okanogan Highlands Bottling Company
       OMB Watch
       Open Society Policy Center
       Oregon Natural Desert Association
       Oregon Peace Works
       Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, Inc.
       People For the American Way
       Project On Government Oversight
       Public Citizen
       ReadtheBill.org Education Fund
       Republican Liberty Caucus
       Reynolds, Motl & Sherwood, PLLP

[[Page S6830]]

       The Rutherford Institute
       Sagebrush Sea Campaign
       Semmelweis Society International
       Snake River Alliance
       Society of American Archivists
       Society of Professional Journalists
       Southern California Association of Law Libraries
       Southwest Research and Information Center
       The Student Health Integrity Project
       Tax Analysts
       Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive 
       Union of Concerned Scientists
       VA Whistleblowers Coalition
       Western Environmental Law Center
       Western Lands Project Western Resource Advocates
       The Wilderness Society
       Wild Wilderness
       Wilderness Workshop.