Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyFiscal spending deadline nears while lawmakers face pressure to strike deal These Senate seats are up for election in 2022 Senate panel advances bill blocking tech giants from favoring own products MORE (D-Vt.) on Thursday night officially declared reforms to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) dead this year, as the House gaveled out of session.
And he blamed Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE (R-Ohio) for its death.
"And Boehner kills #FOIA improvements," Leahy tweeted at a reporter a little before midnight after the House finished its work on the "cromnibus" government funding bill — the last item of its agenda for the year.
Leahy and other advocates unsuccessfully pushed House leadership this week to take up the reforms intended to increase government transparency.
"If House Republicans want this administration to be more accountable, then they must put it on the suspension calendar without delay. Let’s get it done,” Leahy said earlier this week. “Time is running out, and the House must act without further delay.”
On Monday, Leahy secured unanimous consent in the Senate on a bill after Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) dropped his hold.
Leahy's proposal, introduced with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), has broad support in the civil liberties and open government community. In October, 50 groups called on President Obama to publicly back the bill.
One of the largest changes requires agencies to adopt a policy that presumes disclosure and would ban denials of records based on technicalities.
Obama directed agencies to adopt this policy when he first came into office, but the legislation would seek to make it permanent and not subject to future presidents' discretion.
It would make a series of other changes as well, including limiting records related to the deliberative process to be withheld only if they are less than 25 years old and increasing the number of records available online.
“In a political climate as divided as this, I had hoped that we could come together in favor of something as fundamental to our democracy as the public’s right to know," Leahy said in a statement Friday.
— Updated 10:25 a.m.