Senate Action on FOI Bill Delayed by Rockefeller

4 December 2014

The US Senate Dec. 4 came close to passing reform amendments to the Freedom of Information Act, but the day was suspenseful and inconclusive.

With Congress about the leave for a holiday break, only a limited window is available for getting the bill (S 2520) through. Objections from even a single senator, known as “holds,” could sink the bill.

Throughout the day, the bill’s supporters sought to deal with the concerns of a few senators, but one senator was still questioning the bill, according to sources following the bill.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) wanted time to look at the modifications made in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approved the bill unanimously Nov. 20, but gave his approval. (See article.)

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) “placed an informational hold on the bill because it had not been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office,” a spokesperson said. “However, his concerns regarding the costs were addressed and he does not object to its passage.”

Rockefeller Remaining Objector

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) late in the day was identified as the final remaining senator with concerns.

His doubts were identified by one bill supporter as being stimulated by the Federal Trade Commission, an independent agency. An advocate for the bill said the FTC was concerned about the administrative burden and judicial review of the foreseeable harm standard.

The bill would require agencies to process requests under the assumption that the records must be released unless there is a foreseeable harm or specific legal or statutory prohibitions on its release.’

An FTC spokesman declined to comment. Rockefeller’s office could not be contacted late Dec. 4.

A supporter hoped for Senate action Dec. 5. Prompt passage is necessary to allow the House time to approve the bill. The House is scheduled to recess Dec. 11.

In an e-mail comment sent to The Tennessean newspaper, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s senior adviser for digital media, Faiz Shakir, wrote: “Senator Reid is supportive of the legislation and presently making every effort to get it passed as soon as possible. We’re optimistic that could happen in the very near future.”

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