There are few policy areas in which bipartisanship remains a strong influence, and it sometimes seems that transparency in government is slipping off the shrinking list.

But Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, the ranking minority member of the panel, struck a blow Tuesday for maintaining agreement across the partisan aisle on the importance of protecting the public's right to know what its government is doing.

Leahy and Cornyn jointly introduced the FOIA Improvement Act of 2014, which addresses the biggest loophole in the landmark law, the deliberative process exemption from disclosure, aka the "pre-decisional" exception.

Take the exemption and run

Under the pre-decisional exemption -- the fifth of nine the FOIA currently permits -- federal officials can withhold any document created prior to an official decision being made.

Doing so, according to the exemption's backers, is essential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process because officials won't get candid advice if advisers know their suggestions will be made public.

As the Washington Free Beacon's C.J. Ciaramella reports, the pre-decisional exemption "has become one of the most used and abused ways for government agencies to deny freedom of information requests."

Narrowing the scope

The Leahy-Cornyn proposal doesn't do away with the fifth exemption, but does significantly limit its application by requiring agencies to apply a public-interest test.

That test would be used to determine if the public interest in government accountability outweighs the need for protecting the deliberative process from exposure.

An Associated Press analysis earlier this year by reporters Ted Bridis and Jack Gillum concluded that 12 percent of all FOIA document denials cited the deliberative process exemption.

Still no penalties

Limiting the FOIA's fifth exemption is progress, to be sure, but there is one glaring hole in the Leahy-Cornyn proposal.

Nobody in the federal government ever pays a fine or goes to jail for violating the FOIA. That is why the FOIA may well be the most frequently violated law on the books concerning the daily operations of government.

Until that hole is filled with concrete penalties to put government officials on notice that they must follow the letter and the spirit of the FOIA, it will continue to be trampled too often.

On today's

Editorial: American public must keep spotlight on the VA scandal.

Watchdog/Luke Rosiak: Fake-handicap fraudsters foiled by reality TV, LinkedIn spam

Columnists/Noemie Emery: Obama would have to change his entire worldview to save his presidency.

Columnists/Ron Arnold: Stop the Big Green mind-killer machine.

OpEds/Steve Moore: Why not boost teen employment with a training wage?

Beltway Confidential/Blake Seitz: This 27-year-old red-meat millennial wants to become the youngest member of Congress.

PennAve/David M. Drucker: Thad Cochran upsets Chris McDaniel in Mississippi GOP Senate primary runoff.

PennAve/Rebecca Berg: James Lankford beats back national Tea Party groups to win Oklahoma GOP Senate primary.

PennAve/Susan Crabtree: Why the IRS will pay this conservative group $50,000.

In other news

NBC News: Will ISIS eclipse al Qaeda as world's number-one terrorist threat?

Newsweek: San Francisco shuts down an app for selling parking spaces.

New York Post: Russian parliament revokes Putin's authorization to invade Ukraine.

Righty Playbook

The Daily Caller: Mississippi VA office promotes interns over vets.

Red State: The Marionettes remain uncut in Mississippi.

The American Conservative: The spies who bilked us.

Bonus must-read

The Federalist: Chelsea Clinton is the perfect Millennial, which is why Hillary Clinton could lose.

Lefty Playbook

The Huffington Post: Tea Party loser refuses to concede.

The Nation: Will the Democratic Party deliver for the feminists?

Salon: How the government destroyed Aaron Swartz.

Bonus must-read

Mother Jones: How the Iraq war launched the modern era of political BS.

Blog Right

Hot Air: DHS releasing illegal immigrant families from Central America into this country but won't say how many.

American Power: Dick Cheney on Obama's handling of Iraq.

Yid With Lid: What happened in Mississippi?

Blog Left

Talking Points Memo: Top Tea Party activist says GOP is "done" if Cochran wins.

Democratic Strategist: Cantor undone by organic anti-incumbency.

FireDogLake: So that's why they kept the drone-kill memo secret.