Legislation Moving in Congress Could Strengthen FOIA

June 25, 2014

There's a good chance Congress may enact a bill making modest but significant improvements in the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). For the gridlocked, do-nothing, hyperpartisan 113th Congress, this could be a big deal.

Reviving a longstanding bipartisan alliance, Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a bill (S 2520) that would add a balancing test and sunset to the "deliberative process" exemption in the current FOIA law. That exemption shields from disclosure records documenting internal policy debates within agencies before final decisions are made.

Prospects for the Senate bill are improved by the fact that Leahy chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Prospects are further improved by the fact that a related bill has already been passed by the House. The normally rancorous House passed that bill (HR 1211) on February 25, 2014, by a vote of 410-0.