Grant program approved to preserve presidential documents

Amendment would allow the National Archives to publish the founding fathers' documents online.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Tuesday approved legislation that would establish a competitive grant program to help in the preservation of historical documents from past presidents.

The bill, which was sponsored by Sen. John Warner, R-Va., and cleared on a voice vote in a committee meeting off the Senate floor, would establish a competitive grant program for organizations to help promote historical preservation and access to historical records and documents from past presidents who do not have a library that is maintained by the federal government.

The committee started work on the bill during a markup meeting last week but could not complete deliberations due to a lack of a quorum.

During the initial markup meeting, Warner said there were no federally supported libraries for presidents prior to Herbert Hoover. "The documents and records of these presidents are scattered throughout America," Warner said. "In our view, the federal government should be taking an active role in encouraging the preservation of these documents."

Before the committee adjourned, it approved a substitute amendment to the bill that would allow the National Archives to publish the founding fathers' documents and other important historical documents online in an effort to provide those who do not live near major libraries access to such documents.

In addition, the substitute, which was offered by Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., and Warner, would require the Archives to develop a plan that prioritizes capital improvements at federally maintained libraries, which would provide Congress with information on which libraries are most in need of repairs.

The amendment also calls on the agency to develop a plan for future presidential libraries that will reduce the costs to the federal government, improve public access and provide better access to historical documents.