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Chairman Moakley, I am pleased to testify before you
and the Subcommittee today on House Resolution 419.
is Michael Mc Reynolds, Director of the Legislative Archives
Division at the National Archives.
Passage of the
resolution will be a significant step in making the records
National Archives, in that the records of the House and the
Senate are not kept by the legislative bodies themselves, as
is the case in almost all other countries.
Here the records
of Congress have been successfully entrusted with the
National Archives for many years, as our recent project with
the House Iran-Contra Committee records amply illustrates.
As you may know, I became Archivist of the United
States in December of last year, but before that I was the
Director of the Gerald. R. Ford Presidential Library in
Many of the papers at that Library, of course,
originated in the House of Representatives during President
Ford's long and meritorious career here.
papers of Congressman Ford, along with the records from the
White House, were given to the National Archives with a deed
of gift from President Ford.
The deed included a liberal
access policy for researchers wanting to know about
President Ford's career, and most his congressional papers
are now available, 15 years after he left the House.
So I come to this hearing with some experience with
access policies related to the records of the House and an
understanding of the issues raised in revising those
The National Archives participated in your
hearing in 1986 on the same matter and presented a longer
discussion on the archival considerations related to public
access to the House records.
In reviewing the record of
that hearing, we want to emphasize that the proposed access
revision would continue to protect individual privacy,
national security information, and executive session records
for 50 years.
The proposed resolution will in fact
establish a 39-50 year rule.
Many House records will be open after 30 years, but the
National Archives staff will screen the records for those
three categories and withhold the restricted records, as we
now do for the Senate records with its 20-50 year rule.
Since 1988, we have screened, withheld some records, and
made available to researchers Other Senate records of a very
sensitive nature and have no complaints from the Senate.
Those records include topics such as internal security,
atomic energy, and criminal investigations.
some complaints from researchers, but when the access policy
was fully explained, they understood.
We were asked to comment on the question of the merits
of a 20-50 year rule or a 39-50 year rule.
would be administratively easier to have a uniform access
rule for both the House and the Senate.
puzzled by the present difference and will remain so with a
House 30-50 year rule.
Most researchers are working on a
specific topic and use both the House and the Senate records
in their research.
With the 39-50 year rule, a student
working on the relationship between Congress and President
Kennedy will be able to see relevant records from the
Senate, but not from the House.
The question of a 29 year standard affecting present
House members is lost to the American public, because the
administrative and committee records of the House at the
National Archives contain almost no political or personal
The records are bill files, petitions from
citizens, reports from executive agencies, and transcripts
of hearings and other records related to the official work
of the House.
As Congressman Glenn English stated in his
letter to you dated January 25, 1988, "In general, any need
for confidentiality will have long since disappeared by the
twenty year mark."
Our advise on this question is that we
can easily work with a 39-50 year rule, but we see the
administrative and training costs for our staff would be
reduced if the resolution would establish a 20-50 year rule,
and the American research public would enjoy a consistent
access policy to the records of Congress.
For the past year National Archives staff members have
been meeting with House committee staff directors and
records officers to acquaint them with the programs of the
not, but almost always they did request some type of records
The National Archives does provide
such assistance for executive agencies, and we would pleased
it, once the Bicentennial Guide to the Records of the House
of Representatives at the National Archives is ready for
Our work in the last 3 years with the Clerk's Office,
the House Office for the Bicentennial, and your Subcommittee
marks a new era in cooperation and coordination between the
House of Representatives and the National Archives.
endorse your continued efforts to make the vast store of
House documents more readily available to the people of this
STATEMENT OF R. MICHAEL MCREYNOLDS
DIRECTOR, LEGISLATIVE ARCHIVES DIVISION,
NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION.
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON RULES OF THE HOUSE, COMMITTEE
ON RULES, UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
SEPTEMBER 17, 1986, ON ACCESS TO THE RECORDS OF THE
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES.