WASHINGTON - Subcommittee on Modernization Chairwoman Stephanie Bice (OK-05) delivered opening remarks at today's Subccommittee Hearing titled, “Legislative Proposals to Support Modernizing the Congressional Research Service and the Use of Federal Data.” 

Chairwoman Bice's full opening statement as prepared for delivery: 

This is the Modernization Subcommittee’s first legislative hearing.  

We’ll be learning more about two bills and one resolution that have been referred to the Subcommittee and we’ll have the opportunity to dig into what problems these measures address and what solutions they propose. 

This should go without saying, but legislative hearings like this one provide an important forum for Members to gather information, ask questions, and form opinions or positions on the legislation before us. 

Legislative hearings are consistent with regular order, but we don’t see a lot of them at the subcommittee level these days.  

The same is true of markups at the subcommittee level. 

But as Chair, I think the subcommittee process is important, and that’s especially true here as we consider bills that directly relate to our mission to improve and modernize the institution and implement the recommendations of the Select Committee on Modernization.  

Today we will hear about two measures related to the Congressional Research Service’s ongoing efforts to modernize the way the agency works on behalf of Congress.  

We will also learn more about a resolution introduced by our colleague, Ranking Member Kilmer, and co-sponsored by our colleague, Mr. Morelle, that’s based on a Select Committee recommendation to create a congressional commission on evidence-based policymaking. 

The Modernization Subcommittee held a hearing in April of last year to examine CRS’s efforts to improve their processes and products in ways that reflect how today’s Congress operates.  

It was clear then that more work was needed, but I’m pleased to say that we’ve seen the agency take positive steps to improve culture and modernize operations. We recognize that the work CRS analysts do to support Congress is invaluable. I am encouraged and excited with the results of recent changes and look forward to the continued progress of CRS as it moves forward. 

Robert, I want to personally thank you for your leadership.  

On that note, I’m pleased that we are joined today by Robert Newlen, CRS’s Interim Director, who, in addition to speaking about the two CRS-related bills on the agenda today, will update the Subcommittee on some of the agency’s ongoing efforts to improve and enhance services. 

Mr. Newlen will discuss the underlying problems that the two CRS bills address and explain how they will help strengthen the agency’s mission to support Congress.  

I’d like to note that all four Members of this Subcommittee jointly introduced these bills, as we all saw value in what they set forth to accomplish. 

Access to federal agency data is critical to CRS’s mission to provide timely and accurate research and analysis to Congress.  

The agency’s current statute, which hasn’t been seriously modified in over 50 years, needs to be updated to reflect new forms and uses of data.  

The Select Committee on Modernization recognized this problem and recommended enhancing support agency access to federal data.  

The bill we are discussing today does just that.  

The Select Committee also recommended examining legislative support agency authorities more broadly to determine if they need to be updated and this bill is certainly consistent with that goal. 

I will say here that our intention continues to be a larger examination of CRS’s organic statute with an eye toward developing more modern authorities and congressional directives that better support CRS’s work and more accurately reflect the needs of Congress today.   

We look forward to working with you, Robert, your successor, and your entire team in that important endeavor. 

Modernizing how CRS produces and provides access to the Constitution Annotated is also consistent with the goal of updating how the agency serves Congress. CONAN, as this massive tome is known, has been available online since 2019.  

The digital version is regularly updated and has gotten millions of views since its inception.  

Meanwhile, producing this hardbound version is costly.  According to the most recent estimates available from CRS and GPO, the 2012 hardbound CONAN cost taxpayers approximately $1 million to produce.   

We’re waiting on estimates for the 2022 version, but expect they’ll be nearly the same. 

Getting rid of the print requirement enhances efficiency and is an easy cost saving measure.   

Our second panel today includes three expert witnesses who can share additional views on Congress’s access to and use of federal agency data.  

They’ll shed some light on legislative and executive branch interactions and provide perspective on some of the challenges analysts face accessing data and how the work that CRS does on behalf of Members and staff is impacted when analysts can’t get data. 

Understanding the different ways that data can inform the policymaking and oversight processes is another important part of this discussion, as is considering partisan bias in data and how we ensure that data is accurate and reliable