Congressional Data Task Force Meeting on March 13, 2024

The Congressional Data Task Force held its first quarterly meeting on Tuesday, March 19th, 2024. The agenda and other resources are available online here, and we expect video and slides will be made available soon. The next scheduled meeting is June 6th and December 12, 2024. It’s unclear whether there will be a fourth meeting around September, which is also when the Library usually holds its public-facing meeting on congressional data.

The following are highlights from the meeting.

Video from Senate committee proceedings are now embedded in as of a few weeks ago. This includes embedding videos for 2024 and the embedded videos may eventually go back a few years to ~2019. The Senate indicated that it cannot include video from when Senate committees started to post video, around the year 2000, because the videos are in older formats. could probably post hyperlinks to those older videos, but we did not discuss that issue at the meeting. Note that the Foundation for American Innovation has a website collecting the vast majority of Senate videos going back to around ~2000.

The eHopper, a tool whereby members can introduce legislation electronically, including identifying cosponsors at the time of introduction, was discussed at the meeting, including showing a brief video on how it works. A particular point of focus was how users of the eHopper validate who is identified as a legislative co-sponsor. The House is hoping to build out the ability to add additional co-sponsors using the Senate’s Quill tool, with discussions on access to that technology currently underway.

The Congressional staff directory, i.e., an internal-facing directory of everyone who works in the House, Senate, and support offices, is moving forward. Among other things, the directory will identify the issue areas on which people work. The House Digital Service, which is building the tool, has funding and is currently building a proof-of-concept website. The Initial version of the directory will be House-centric as the House is providing the robust information they need. They’re working to get robust data from the Senate, but the Senate is requiring them to go and request permission to access the data office-by-office, which is laborious. There is an ongoing working group, and many of the congressional agencies are enthusiastically participating.

Comparative print suite. House and Senate staff are working to get senators access to this amazing internal-facing tool that allows users to compare bills side-by-side and see how an amendment would amend a bill in real time. Senate legislative counsel is piloting a project whereby senators who ask for a bill to be drafted will also get a version of a draft bill in XML, which will allow it to be uploaded into the comparative print suite. They’ll be looking for offices to participate in pilot access for the suite and interested Senate offices should reach out to be included in that pilot., the main website by which the House publishes bills scheduled to be on the floor and in committees, as well as information about committee proceedings, may be in line for a refresh. The House is starting to think about how it can be modernized.

Senate Read The Bill. The Senate says it is making progress on making senate bills and resolutions available to senate offices and the public prior to consideration on the floor. Right now, this effort is focused on internal facing work. There is not a lot of detail. Please note this 2021 letter from civil society urging the Senate to make bills and amendments publicly available prior to floor votes and also describing the narrow scope of the Senate’s internal tools to share bill text to senate offices.

The Statutes at Large, i.e. the laws enacted by Congress, are now available online as PDFs from 1789 to present. This starts to address this approval given by Senator Schumer on behalf of the Joint Committee on Printing way back in 2010 “to create digitized volumes of the Statutes at Large.” In addition, GPO is undertaking a digitization effort to make them available online in XML as USLM, which means that people could access the law as data and not just giant picture files. This is an important transformative use that also supports the comparative print project. Expect to see some initial statutes at large available as XML online as early as year.

For Congressionally Mandated Reports, which is a website where GPO is publishing many of the reports required by law to be submitted to Congress, GPO indicated it is now working to identify reports that are part of a series. What this means is that if you are looking at a particular report, if there were earlier or later iterations, such as on a quarterly basis, it will be easier to find them all.

FlagTrack. The House will be expanding its FlagTrack pilot tool to 100 offices. This allows offices to track requests for flags to be flown over the capitol.

Casework Data Aggregation will be the focus of a new working group set to be formed by House Digital Services. The goal, which has been endorsed by the House Subcommittee on Modernization, is to allow the sharing of anonymized and aggregated casework data across offices to improve service delivery and provide an overview of issues identified in congress raised by constituents. A good reason why this is important is highlighted in the POPVOX Foundation’s recent report on Afghanistan.

Managing data as a strategic asset is the focus of an updated provision in the the House’s user’s guide for Members and Committees, which was updated in February to provide guidance on managing data and discusses data as a strategic asset.

The availability of CRS Report in HTML was the focus of a question asked to the Library of Congress/CRS, specifically when they would become publicly available as required under the FY24 Legislative Branch Appropriations Committee report. A representative from CRS was not present at the meeting and the Library representative did not have information to share.

The Video working group still hasn’t finalized its report on preserving and providing access to House and Senate video. As discussed in prior meetings, this report has been expected for more than a year – the working group is waiting for sign off from one entity. The report will address what has been done and make recommendations for future ways to address video for floor and committee proceedings.

The next meeting of the Congressional Data Task Force is June 6th, but people can engage with the taskforce members in advance. I hope to update this blogpost with more extensive notes, but the above were the major news highlights.

Prior Meetings for which we’ve published a summary

2023: March 2023 CDTF Meeting | June CDTF Meeting | September LC Virtual Public Forum | September Hackathon 5.0 | December CDTF Meeting

2022: December 2022 | September CDTF Meeting | September LC Virtual Public Forum | June CDTF | March BDTF | April Hackathon

2021: July BDTF | September LC Virtual Public Forum

2020: September LC Virtual Public Forum

2019: July BDTF | October BDTF |

2018: February 2018 (available upon request) | June LDTC | November BDTF |

2017: April BDTF (available upon request) | June BDTF (available upon request) | December Hackathon

2016: May BDTF | June LDTC (and this)

2015: May LDTC | October Hackathon

2014: February BDTF | June LDTC | December BDTF

2013: February BDTF | May LDTC |

2012: April LDTC |