WASHINGTON – The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led by Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Me., Wednesday passed legislation that would repeal a 2001 Bush Executive Order that created new and broad authorities for former presidents to block or impede the release of their communications with top aides.
The Presidential Records Act Amendment Act of 2007, S.886/H.R.1255, was among several bills reported out of the Committee en bloc. The new legislation would restore the process that existed before the Executive Order and would create new procedures to ensure the timely review and release of presidential records.
“Presidential records have shaped in innumerable ways the understanding Americans have in how their government works and how the critical decisions of state are made. The scholars who sift through and write about these public records make a lasting contribution to the public welfare that goes well beyond academia,” Lieberman said. “This bill is a tribute to freedom of information and the timely release of materials essential to self-governance.”
The Committee also voted to create a government fact-finding commission to fully investigate the relocation and internment of Latin Americans of Japanese descent placed in U.S. internment camps during World War II.
“A government fact-finding commission would give finality to and complete the record on government efforts to detain and intern civilians of Japanese ancestry,” Lieberman said. “This nation demonstrates its greatness when we speak openly about our past, acknowledge the bad with the good, and when we take steps to right past wrongs.”
The bills reported en bloc included:
• S.886/H.R.1255, the Presidential Records Act Amendment of 2007;
• S.381, the Commission on Wartime Relocation and Internment of Latin Americans of Japanese Descent Act;
• S.274, the Federal Employee Protection of Disclosures Act;
• S.Res.22, a resolution reaffirming the constitutional and statutory protections accorded sealed domestic mail, and for other purposes;
• S.967, the Federal Supervisor Training Act of 2007;
• S.1046, the Senior Professional Performance Act of 2007; and
• S.1099, a bill to amend chapter 89 of title 5, U.S. Code, to make individuals employed by the Roosevelt Campobello International Park Commission eligible to obtain Federal health insurance
In addition, the Committee reported the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act of 2007 separately in a vote of 9-1.