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August 3, 2011

Speaker of the House John Boehner lobbied for the use of Faster FOIA Act as a vessel for the Budget Control Act of 2011.

A little over two months ago, we posted a story on the troubled Faster FOIA Act. In summation, the Senate has passed a Faster FOIA Act of some form three times since 2005. Unfortunately, each Congressional session ended before the House of Representatives could pass a version of the bill. Therefore, it seems strange to regrettably report the passing of the Faster FOIA Act in the House.

In an effort to expedite the passage of a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, the House of Representatives picked S. 627 The Faster FOIA Act of 2011 as a vessel for a debt resolution. The bill was amended to remove the previous content and add in the elements of the Budget Control Act of 2011.

Just a few days ago, the Senate passed another Faster FOIA Act bill. This makes it the fourth Faster FOIA bill since 2005. This being the second time this bill has passed the Senate in the same session, it is difficult not to editorialize about the inability of the House to pass this legislation. Perhaps an update on Representative Darrell Issa’s (Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee) massive FOIA request would arrive if meaningful reforms of FOIA practices were implemented. Though the actual effectiveness of the Faster FOIA Act is somewhat questionable – the formation of committees is rarely seen as a robust step for reform – it would at least represent some progress toward reform.

In other FOIA news, the Detroit Free Press obtained a receipt from the city of Detroit via FOIA showing tens of thousands of dollars, money meant for the third of Detroit’s population that live below the poverty line, was used to furnish a government office. Included among the purchases were leather chairs, a $3,000 mahogany-finished table, and stainless steel, motion-control trash bins. The publication of this information in May led to an FBI investigation and the suspension of a number of city officials.

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