Senate panel approves bill to boost disclosure of government docs

A bill meant to expand public disclosure of government documents made its first step toward passage in the new Congress. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday unanimously passed the bill aimed at updating the Freedom of Information Act, one of the panel's first legislative acts this year. 

Earlier this week, Sens. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyRepublicans give Barr vote of confidence Democratic senators ask DOJ watchdog to expand Giuliani probe Overnight Defense: Senate votes to rein in Trump war powers on Iran | Pentagon shifting .8B to border wall | US, Taliban negotiate seven-day 'reduction in violence' MORE (D-Vt.) and John CornynJohn CornynHillicon Valley: Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates | Barr vows to make surveillance reforms after watchdog report | DHS cyber chief focused on 2020 Twitter falling short on pledge to verify primary candidates Trump creates new headaches for GOP with top intelligence pick MORE (R-Texas) reintroduced the FOIA Improvement Act, which would require agencies to adopt a policy that presumes disclosure and would ban denials of records based on technicalities, among other changes.

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"The FOIA Improvement Act of 2015 reflects the input of both sides of the aisle, the open government community, the Administration, and many other stakeholders," Leahy said after the vote. "It is the product of careful negotiations, and it marks an historic step forward in our continued effort to open the government. The Senate should take up and pass this bill so it can be considered by the House and enacted this year.” 

The Senate approved the bill late last year, but the House did not take it up in the lame-duck session. Earlier last Congress, however, the House passed a slightly different FOIA update, sponsored by Reps. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaDesperate in Southern California: Darrell Issa's 'back to the future' primary campaign misfires Duncan Hunter to plead guilty to campaign finance violations Why the GOP march of mad hatters poses a threat to our Democracy MORE (R-Calif.) and Elijah CummingsElijah Eugene CummingsOversight Committee room to be dedicated to late Rep. Elijah Cummings House wants documents on McEntee's security clearances VA could lead way for nation on lower drug pricing MORE (D-Md.). 

The two House lawmakers have also reintroduced their version, and Issa told The Hill he expects it to be approved on the floor in the next few weeks.