페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

My name is Michael McReynolds, and today I am

[blocks in formation]

Subcommittee on Rules of the House of the United States

We

House of Representatives on the records of the House. are also pleased that this opportunity comes as a result of

our somewhat newly independent status within the Federal

Government.

Ever since the passage of the Legislative

Reorganization Act of 1946, the administrative and committee

records of the House of Representatives have been received, preserved, and made available to the American public at the

National Archives.

The first accession of records totalled

almost 10,000 cubic feet of records and included the

earliest documents of the House when it first met in 1789.

Now records are regularly transferred after the time lapse

of 2 Congresses; we now have more than 23,000 cubic feet of

House records in the Legislative Archives Division.

As you know the records are, and will remain, in the

legal custody of the House.

The United States is unique in

the western world in that the national archives of this

country not only has the records of the executive branch of

Government, but also the records of both Houses of Congress

and the Supreme Court.

Some people have chided us that this

arrangement conflicts with the separation of powers, but the

National Archives believes the housing of the records of all

three branches of Government is based on the trust those

three branches have in the National Archives.

The

arrangement certainly facilitates research and makes the

public record easily available to the American people.

The archival responsibility where the trust is most

necessary and tested each day is that of granting access to

records we hold.

The law and executive orders governing

access to Federal records attempt to strike a balance

between the public's right to know about its Government and

the Government's need to protect some information from

immediate disclosure.

In practice that means State

Department records from the 1950's are being declassified

and made available to the public; Office of Management and

Budget records from the 1960's in the National Archives are

open; the bulk of President Gerald Ford's records can be

examined by citizens; and many Federal agencies are opening

very recent records in response to Freedom of Information

Act requests.

Access to the records of the House of Representatives,

however, is restricted for 50 years.

As you may imagine,

researchers coming to the National Archives are often

stunned when they learn of the 50-year rule.

They are

[blocks in formation]

for World War II and the Korean War.

We have enforced the

50-year rule since the House records were opened for

research, but it is increasingly difficult to explain the

rationale of the rule to citizens who come to the National

Archives and can see much more recent records of many

Federal agencies, the Supreme Court, and the United States

Senate.

What are the records that are being kept closed for 50

years and who are the people seeking access to those

records?

The records are the administrative and committee

records of the House.

They are the bill files from the

committees; the petitions from citizens to the House;

the

correspondence and reports from the White House and

executive agencies; and the transcripts of hearings and

other records related to the official work of the House.

They do not include the office files of individual

Congressmen which remain the personal property of the

Members.

The people who seek access to those House records are

historians, political scientists, lawyers, and many family

historians. In fact genealogists make up the majority of our researchers, as you can see in the annual report

submitted to Congress earlier this year and included as part

of this testimony.

In the 19th century, many citizens filed

claims against the Government directly to Congress, and

those claims files among the House records are excellent

sources for family histories.

We believe the 50-year rule was instituted to protect

the sitting Members of the House from political

entanglements when access is granted to House records.

As

you may surmise from my brief description of the House

records at the National Archives and the types of

researchers who use the records, it is unlikely that many,

if any, political or embarrassing records will be filed in

committee or the Clerk's records and transferred to the

Archives.

Nor do we have researchers looking for political

documents that might be used against a sitting Member of

Congress.

Political documentation is filed in the personal

offices of the Congressmen, and those records remain in the

legal custody of the Members.

Another factor in this matter of access is that

Congress traditionally has published far more of its information than any other Government body, as a means of

disseminating information about its work.

The Congressional

Record and its predecessors; the Congressional serial set,

which is a collection of Committee reports and other

documents; transcripts of Congressional hearings; and since

1979, the telecasting of the House floor proceedings, all

illustrate the long and highly praised policy of the House

of Representatives to make its record freely and widely

available to the American people.

Only in the area of its

archival records does the House limit access to its record.

From the time that the first House records were

transferred to the National Archives in 1946 until the

passage of House Resolution 288, 83rd Congress, in 1953

access was extremely difficult.

Very few individuals or

government agencies were permitted to view these records.

In two instances, state libraries were fortunate enough to

have House resolutions passed on their behalf to enable them

to secure photostatic copies of nineteenth century documents

of importance to their state histories.

The American

Historical Association and the National Archives urged the

House to adopt a more liberal access policy toward its

historic records.

These institutions favored the passage

of the 50, year rule, which was in keeping with many other

Government agencies of that time.

Their labors were

rewarded with the passage of House Resolution 288, 83rd

Congress.

While the resolution clearly opened for research

all records over 50 yers old, it permitted the Clerk some discretion on opening other House records.

Indeed our records show that from 1953 to at least

1971, the clerk permitted access to House records regardless

of their age.

In fact the first researcher to request

records of the House after the passage of House Resolution

288 in 1953 wanted to view records from 1930-1940; he was

granted access.

That same researcher or any other would be

denied access to these same records if he asked to view them

in 1986--33 years later.

From 1958 to 1971 the situation became at once less

structured and more open.

In a 1958 meeting between the

clerk, then Ralph Roberts, Speaker Sam Rayburn and the

« 이전계속 »