Last week, ThinkProgress noted that a bill called the OPEN Government Act had been locked down in the Senate by a secret hold. The bill in question is a “bipartisan effort to update the seminal Freedom of Information Act to make the government more open and accountable.” The act would:
— Restore meaningful deadlines for agency action under FOIA; — Impose real consequences on federal agencies for missing statutory deadlines; — Establish a FOIA hotline service for all federal agencies; and — Create a FOIA Ombudsman as an alternative to costly litigation.
When Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John Cornyn (R-TX) tried to bring the bill to a vote on the floor, “the vote was blocked by ‘Senator Anonymous.’ Some Republican senator called the Minority Leader’s office and objected to a vote on the bill, but asked for anonymity and did not publicly state the reason for the hold.”
The man behind the secret hold has now revealed himself: Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ). Kyl’s excuse for placing a hold on the bill? Alberto Gonzales’ Justice Department opposes several provisions:
Kyl says the Justice Department is concerned that it could force them to reveal sensitive information.
In a statement Thursday, Kyl said the agency’s “uncharacteristically strong” opposition is reason enough to think twice about the legislation, and he will block a vote until both sides can work out the differences.
Kyl’s water-carrying for the Justice Department is untenable. The OPEN Government Act has overwhelmingly passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. Similar legislation in the House passed in March by 308 to 117. Kyl needs to get out of the way. As Sen. Leahy put it, “This is a good government bill that Democrats and Republicans alike can and should work together to enact. It should be passed without further delay.”