House Modernization panel advances bill to improve CRS’s data access in first-ever markup

The committee’s unanimous approval of legislation that aims to make it easier for the Congressional Research Service to get federal agency data was a milestone for the year-old subcommittee.
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 12: A view of the Capitol building where young activists plan to take part in an overnight sit-in outside of Congress (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Get Free)

A bill to improve the Congressional Research Service’s access to federal data was one of two bipartisan pieces of legislation advanced Thursday at the first-ever markup by the Committee on House Administration’s newest subcommittee.

The Subcommittee on Modernization unanimously approved by voice vote the “Modernizing the Congressional Research Service’s Access to Data Act” (H.R. 7593), which is aimed at making it easier and faster for the research entity to obtain data from federal agencies and entities within the executive branch. 

“While CRS’s work is held up by bureaucratic processes and procedures, our work is held up. That is unacceptable, and our constituents deserve better,” Subcommittee Chairwoman Stephanie Bice, R-Okla., said at the markup. 

At a hearing in March, Robert Newlen, CRS’s interim director, told the subcommittee that the agency has difficulty obtaining information from government agencies and the legislation would address those “roadblocks.”


The committee also advanced by voice vote a bill that would direct the Library of Congress to publish digital annotated constitutions instead of the hardbound copies it’s currently required to produce. Bice said eliminating the print requirement is estimated to save just over a million dollars.

Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., the panel’s ranking member, noted that both pieces of legislation address recommendations from the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, which was a precursor to the creation of the subcommittee. 

Those recommendations were that congressional support agencies, like CRS, should report on challenges to accessing federal data and potential solutions, and for lawmakers to examine whether authorities for those agencies needed to be updated.

In addition to being a milestone for the subcommittee, which was created last February, it was also the first House Administration subcommittee to have a markup vote in 31 years, Bice said at the meeting.

“We’re trying to find ways to improve — modernize Congress, of course — but also just improve processes, and I think these are just two easy, simple wins that can make that happen,” Bice told FedScoop after the markup. 


The bills go next to the full committee.

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