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Senator Carper Joins Democratic Colleagues in Urging the White House to Respond to Requests for Information

Senator Carper joins 17 Senators in letter to President Trump following reports that his administration may have instructed federal agencies to refuse information requests from Democrats

May 24 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, joined 17 of his Democratic colleagues in a letter to President Trump demanding he immediately clarify reports that the White House instructed some federal agencies to withhold information from Congressional Democrats. The Senate Democrats also note that, while some agencies have responded to a limited number of Congressional requests for information, most have gone unanswered. The senators stated that any intentional attempts to obstruct transparency, accountability and information flow within the federal government on a partisan basis would be completely unacceptable and argued that withholding information severely inhibits Congress’ constitutional ability to legislate and conduct oversight.

“Congress has a constitutional obligation to conduct oversight, and the Supreme Court has long recognized the need for the legislative branch to obtain information from the executive branch,” the senators wrote. “The Court has stated that ‘[t]he scope of [Congress'] power of inquiry ... is as penetrating and far-reaching as the potential power to enact and appropriate under the Constitution’ and this power ‘encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes.’”

The senators continued, “When Congress raises legitimate questions, the response of any Administration should be to provide answers that ensure the confidence of the American people-not to obstruct congressional effort to promote transparency, accountability, and good governance. Federal agencies should generally provide information voluntarily in response to congressional requests, especially if these agencies would be required to provide the same information to the general public if requested under the Freedom of Information Act.”

The full text of the letter to President Trump can be found below and in pdf form here.

May 24, 2017

President Donald Trump

The White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW

Washington, D.C. 20050

 

Dear Mr. President:

We write to express our concerns with recent reports that the White House may have instructed certain Federal agencies to refuse requests for information from Democratic members of Congress. If true, such an instruction would be a significant departure from the practices of past Administrations and seriously inhibit Congress's ability to fulfill its legislative and oversight duties.

Congress has a constitutional obligation to conduct oversight, and the Supreme Court has long recognized the need for the legislative branch to obtain information from the executive branch. The Court has stated that ‘[t]he scope of [Congress'] power of inquiry ... is as penetrating and far-reaching as the potential power to enact and appropriate under the Constitution" and this power "encompasses inquiries concerning the administration of existing laws as well as proposed or possibly needed statutes." There has also been judicial recognition that Congress, including its members in the minority, "must have the widest possible access to executive branch information if it is to perform its manifold responsibilities effectively.’

Since the start of your Administration, members of Congress have requested information from the Federal agencies on a number of issues, including health care, the economy, immigration, the environment, and national security. While some agencies have responded to limited number of these requests, most have gone unanswered. If at the instruction of the White House information is being intentionally withheld on a partisan basis, such actions would be simply unacceptable.

When Congress raises legitimate questions, the response of any Administration should be to provide answers that ensure the confidence of the American people-not to obstruct congressional effort to promote transparency, accountability, and good governance. Federal agencies should generally provide information voluntarily in response to congressional requests, especially if these agencies would be required to provide the same information to the general public if requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

For these reasons, we request that you clarify that your Administration will not refuse requests for information from Congress, including Democratic members, and will provide the courtesy of a response to congressional inquiries in a timely and comprehensive manner. If there are disagreements between co-equal branches of government regarding access to information, we ask that your Administration work in good faith to resolve any disputes.

Senator Carper was joined by Senators Charles E. Schumer, Senate Democratic Leader; Dick Durbin, Minority Whip and Assistant Democratic Leader; Patty Murray, Ranking Member on the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member on the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry; Bernie Sanders, Ranking Member on Committee on the Budget Committee; Amy Klobuchar, Ranking Member on the Committee on Rules and Administration; Bob Casey, Vice Chair on the Special Committee on Aging; Ron Wyden, Ranking Member on the Committee on Finance; Jack Reed, Ranking Member on the Committee on Armed Services; Sherrod Brown, Ranking Member on the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Dianne Feinstein, Ranking Member on the Committee on the Judiciary; Tom Udall, Vice Chair on the Committee on India Affairs; Patrick Leahy, Ranking Member on the Committee on Appropriates; Maria Cantwell, Ranking Member on the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources; and Mark Warner, Vice Chair on the Select Committee on Intelligence.

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