When the Senate reconvenes after the August recess it should quickly act on a bill authored by a bipartisan pair of FOIA champions in the Senate that would strengthen the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The bill, S. 2520, the FOIA Improvement Act, is sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Senator John Cornyn (R-Tex.). The two “Sunshine Senators” paired together to craft the 2007 amendments to FOIA and this new bill reflects their continued efforts to find bipartisan fixes to make FOIA work better.
We encourage members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the entire Senate to support quick passage of S. 2520 and, if approved, bring the bill up for a quick vote by the full Senate.
Specifically, S. 2520 would, among other changes, strengthen the FOIA ombudsman’s office, help curtail agencies’ rampant over-invocation of the “deliberative process” exemption (FOIA’s Exemption 5), encourage proactive disclosure of government information without the need for a FOIA request, and codify the current administration’s policy bolstering the presumption of disclosure at the heart of FOIA.
The window for enacting meaningful bipartisan FOIA improvements is running short. All pending bills have to start the process over when a new Congress convenes next year, and the Senate agenda is crowded with few remaining legislative days.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee would be the first to have the opportunity to support FOIA reform when Congress re-convenes September 9.