The US House of Representatives has passed an update to the Presidential and Federal Records Act in an attempt to tighten up the recording of emails from the current US administration.
Millions of emails covering energy policy discussions, the Valerie Plame affair and the run-up to the Iraq war have gone missing and political organisations are suing to get them found.
The White House has consistently claimed that the emails, and the backup tapes, have been deleted.
"Despite the importance of these records, serious deficiencies exist in the way emails are preserved by the White House and federal agencies," said Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and the bill's sponsor.
The bill seeks to establish a strict system of recording, in the same way that paper records are routinely stored for future generations of historians. The White House will be audited annually to ensure compliance.
The bill was passed by 286-137 and will now go to the Senate.
The Congressional Budget Office said that it will cost $155m to comply with the bill's requirements over the next five years.
The White House responded with a statement saying that the bill would " provide the Archivist with substantial leeway to establish standards that could impose significant costs and burdens on an incumbent administration, which could interfere with a president's ability to carry out his or her constitutional and statutory responsibilities".
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