Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports provide useful information on a variety of topics, including analyses of key federal statutes or significant legislative proposals under consideration by Congress and compilations of legislative histories. Drafted by staff members at the Congressional Research Service of the Library of Congress for the use of members of Congress, these reports have been the subject of much attention in the government documents community because they are not routinely made accessible to the public online like other types of government information. Although the Congressional Research Service is taxpayer-funded, commercial vendors actually sell access to these reports. For example, the libraries at Harvard have actually paid for online access through LexisNexis Congressional. (There is a also a competing product produced by Gallery Watch/Penny Hill Press.) Members of the public may ask their representatives in Congress to provide them with copies, and various projects have developed over the years to open up these reports and place them on the Internet, including Open CRS and University of North Texas Libraries. See LLRX and our own Legislative History Research Guide for a list of other projects and more information about the reports in general.
Two bills are currently pending in Congress seeking to make CRS reports open to the public, S. Res. 118 and H.R. 3762.
(Senator Lieberman, sponsor of S. Res. 118 is actually making some CRS document available on his website.) There have been other attempts to pass similar legislation in the past. Hopefully, this time will be the charm!