FOIA Oversight and Implementation Act of 2015by Representative Darrell E. Issa
Posted on 2016-01-11
ISSA. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman.
It is no accident that this is one of the first bills of the new year. Like some of the other legislation, it is not a new idea. In many ways, what it really is is this body, once again, if you will, reiterating when we talk about freedom of information for the American people, whether it is a private citizen who doesn't know what the government knows about him or her and would like to or it is an interest group, a think tank, or very, very often the press--The New York Times, The Washington Post, the LA Times, and a host more--wanting to know what the government is doing, what their government is doing with their money, their freedoms.
This bill emphasizes in no uncertain terms something that is long overdue: that the balance between the American people's right to know about their information and the government's right to keep a secret shall always be balanced in favor and presumed to be the American people's right. In other words, no longer, after this bill is signed into law, will an administration, Republican or Democratic, be able to presume that they are going to say no if they possibly can. Instead, this bill shifts the burden to the presumption of yes.
Not only does it shift the burden, but it puts an outright mandate that, after 25 years, information not covered by national security requirements or classifications of secret or above, shall, in fact, simply be available.
These are fundamentally important distinctions between the current law. But more to the point of a modernization, this legislation mandates a single point of asking for FOIA, an assumption that it is long overdue for us to streamline and improve the ability to get this information and get it to everyone.
One of the aspects of the legislation is that H.R. 653 will require that information asked for again and again and again be posted and available for everyone rather than each time being a burden of somebody wanting similar or even identical information to have to put in a FOIA request.
Mr. Speaker, what I want to close with is this isn't just bipartisan; this is universal. Members of the House and the Senate, whether there is a Republican or Democratic President, whether it is on behalf of a constituent wanting some simple information, we regularly use the Freedom of Information Act, and we regularly find ourselves frustrated.
This is good for the administration. It builds on legislation like the DATA Act and other reforms that the Oversight and Government Reform Committee have done over a number of years.
Lastly, I want to thank my good friend from Maryland (Mr. Cummings). From the very day we began heading the committee, more than 5 years ago now, together, he has always been for FOIA reform, always been for more transparency, and always been supportive of the legislation you see here today. I want to thank Mr. Cummings, something that I don't get enough chances to do.
And I want to thank Chairman Chaffetz for bringing this bill, not only as it was originally written, but with some important modifications to make it, hopefully, go through quickly when it is considered by the Senate.
I urge its support.