On October 2, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman (ID-CT) called for an end to the hold that has been blocking Senate consideration of “The Presidential Records Act Amendment of 2007 (H.R. 1255).”
The legislation would revoke Executive Order 13233 that was issued in 2001 by President George W. Bush broadening the ability of former presidents, their heirs and former vice presidents to withhold the release of records. When Democrats sought to bring the bill to the floor on September 24, Senator Bunning (R-KY) objected to its consideration.
Earlier this week, a federal district court judge partially invalidated Executive Order 13233. The court revoked the authority under the order for former presidents to indefinitely delay the release of their records.
“While I am pleased that the court struck down a troubling section of this Executive Order, the ruling underscores the need to replace the entire order with a process that provides greater public access to presidential records,” Lieberman said. “Only then can we ensure that the public’s right to an open government is maintained.
“This bill was offered in the spirit of the First Amendment and the principle of freedom of information upon which our nation was founded. I call on my colleagues to refrain from procedural roadblocks and allow the public access to the important historical records of their elected leaders.”
The legislation overwhelmingly passed the House of Representatives in March and cleared the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in June. Senator Lieberman has already compromised with Republican opponents to the bill. A Lieberman amendment, which was negotiated after the June mark-up, extends the review period to a maximum of 90 days for former and incumbent presidents after the Archivist of the United States has given notification that records are ready for release. The White House has threatened to veto the bill should it pass the Congress.
The National Coalition for History asks that historians, archivists and researchers call Senator Bunning’s office and demand that he lift his hold on this bill. Senator Bunning’s direct phone number is (202)224-4343.