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Congressmen oppose Interior’s planned public records changes

March 5, 2019

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bipartisan group congressional leaders says the Interior Department’s plan to clamp down on public records requests would undermine government transparency and potentially violate the Freedom of Information Act.

In a letter sent to Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt on Tuesday, the congressmen say the proposed public records rule “needlessly encroaches” on the right of Americans to access federal documents. The letter was signed by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley of Iowa and John Cornyn of Texas, along with Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland.

Among the changes is wording authorizing staff to reject records requests they deem “unreasonably burdensome” and impose monthly limits on FOIA requests. The department says it has seen an exponential increase in such records requests during the Trump administration.