A quorum being present, this hearing of the Subcommittee on Government Efficiency, Financial Management and Intergovernmental Relations will come to order.
Oversight hearing on
H.R. 4187, "The Presidential Records Act Amendments of 2002" April 24, 2002
Chairman Steve Horn
This is our third hearing on Executive Order 13233 and its impact on the Presidential Records Act of 1978. Our subcommittee held the first hearing on this subject last November. The full Committee on Government Reform held a similar hearing on April 11th of this year. At both hearings, historians, attorneys and other experts testified that Executive Order 13233 violates the Presidential Records Act and will greatly impede the public release of presidential records as intended by the Act.
Our earlier hearings fully explored the problems with Executive Order 13233. Todayís hearing focuses on potential solutions. Specifically, we will consider H.R. 4187, a bill that I and several of my colleagues introduced on April 11, 2002. H.R. 4187 would replace the executive order with a statutory process for former and incumbent Presidents to review records prior to their release and assert executive privilege claims, if they so choose.
Unlike Executive Order 13233, the review process in this bill complies with the letter and spirit of the Presidential Records Act. Most importantly, the bill imposes a firm time limit on the review of records and assertions of privilege claims. It would no longer be possible for a former or incumbent President to prevent the release of records indefinitely simply by inaction.
Given the safeguards already built into the Presidential Records Act, a former or incumbent President should rarely, if ever, need to resort to executive privilege claims. Indeed, no such claims have yet been asserted. The problem is that open-ended and unreasonably long reviews have substantially delayed public access to records under the Act. The current Administration prevented the release of an initial portion of former President Reaganís records for one full year after the date on which they should have become public under the requirements of the Presidential Records Act.
I hope that todayís hearing will help us decide whether to move forward with H.R. 4187, and if so, whether there are ways to improve the bill.
I regret that the Justice Department declined our invitation to testify at todayís hearing. However, we have an excellent panel of witnesses who represent different viewpoints. I welcome all of you, and I look forward to your testimony. We also have received several written statements, which without objection will be included in the hearing record.