Recent scandals at the National Security Agency, Internal Revenue Service, Veterans Administration, and other federal agencies have highlighted the importance of transparency to hold government accountable. Yet a proposal to boost government transparency has gotten snarled up by opposition from federal agencies who worry that a proposed transparency bill will make it harder to do their jobs.
Legislation to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act passed the House of Representatives unanimously back in May, and similar legislation gained unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. But now Politico reports that Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) has placed a hold on the legislation that could block it from getting approved this year.
FOIA requests allow journalists, academics, and members of the general public to seek a wide variety of internal government documents. They can be used to determine how an agency reached a decision, who was consulted in the deliberations, and what an agency's internal policies and procedures are.
Rockefeller has placed the hold due to federal agency concerns that the legislation could give companies "new ways to obstruct and delay investigations into their conduct."
The legislation's defenders, including sponsor Patrick Leahy (D-VT), say these concerns are overblown. And they fault Rockefeller for raising the issue at the 11th hour.
But in the undemocratic Senate, a single Senator can often bottle up legislation even if it enjoys overwhelming support from other Senators.