Notes from the Congressional Hackathon on April 6, 2022

(Everyone is welcome to add edits/ comments. Document created by Daniel Schuman at Demand Progress

Opening Remarks from Steny Hoyer

  • 4th congressional hackathon
  • Thanks Steve Dwyer — 19 years
  • Forum for innovation, modernization, and making Congress more transparent
  • Transforms the digital operations of Congress
  • 2011
    • Congress opened its databases so folks could access info about members, their districts
  • 2015 hackathon
    • Congress modernized its committee hearings
    • Allow allowing committee witnesses to testify virtually. This has facilitated allowing witnesses who couldn’t travel to DC. We should keep it.
    • New web form to open casework inquiries — and digital signatures
  • About Hoyer
    • Office oversees the digital academy
    • Manages DemCom, the intranet
      • 10k resumes
    • Updating the DomeWatch app. New version last November — floor plus committee videos
    • Hope to announce new version of DomeDirectory 2.0 — to recognize members of congress
  • 2017
    • Passing the modernizing government technology act in partnership with McCarthy
    • Technology Modernization fund has received more than 1B
  • Work of the House Modernization Committee
    • On the operations of congress, including the use of technology
  • The technology allows every citizen to be (virtually) in the room together where it is happening

Minority Leader McCarthy

  • We agree on the congressional hackathon.
  • Technology is a disruptor; brings efficiency; bring accountability; provides a greater service for people. There’s also vulnerabilities for technology. A hackathon should look at both sides: vulnerabilities. People shouldn’t have to come to DC to deal with an agency
  • Government collects a lot of data but makes it hard for the public to find it. What if we had a one-stop shop?
  • Government is usually the last thing to reform.
  • How can we constantly improve? And while improving, look for the vulnerabilities.
  • Have a NFP

2 Keynotes

Matt Lira

  • This is when we can come together to build a new renaissance
  • Take a moment to imagine what’s possible

Aneesh Chopra

  • 1st US CTO (by video)
  • Urges public service

Logistics — lightning round —3 minutes per pitch

Me on BillMap

Jonathan Rayner, Senior Policy Advisor, Rep. Anthony Brown (D-MD)

  • Minerva Plug-in for
  • Who are the members on a bill
  • Shows not only how the member votes on each individual issue
  • Has a find feature — can look at the partisanship/bipartisanship
  • Install into Chrome from:

Lars Schonander

Senate doesn’t have a central website for committee hearings

GPO information isn’t always up to date and doesn’t have specific datasets.

Solved the problem by scraping all the different senate committees and built a website for them.

Also being able to search through witnesses and their testimonies.

Yuri Beckelman, ModCom

  • We are an extended hackathon but just in the House rules.
  • We prototype and implement as we go
  • 142 recommendations — 30 closed, 19 partially implemented, 40 in progress, 53 open (as of March 30, 2022)
  • A dozen more hearings before we end the year and another 2 rounds of votes
  • Congressional digital service

Shaun Modi

  • Propose: American Civil Design Labs
  • Collaborative environment to leverage existing capabilities, share knowledge, and establish design standards

Ananda Bhatia

  • Capitol Flag Request — pizza tracker for flags
  • Senate uses five separate colored pieces of paper to track flag requests
  • Showing House flag portal
  • Don’t have enough statuses on the website. They encompass multiple steps across multiple offices — it’s confusing
  • MSA working with code for america on a prototype

Brian Overland

  • President of
  • Approps data directory
  • Using GPO bill text data — built a directory that takes all the spending data from all the accounts and subaccounts, parse the data, make it easy to search. Allow you to see how spending has changed over time.

AJ Stewart — (didn’t see a twitter account) (Warnock)

  • NEeded to learn portfolio quickly
  • Want to specialize the bills JUST BY YOUR PORTFOLIO. E.g., taxation is too broad
  • Scraped the data from Use NLP to search the bill text and the committee and policy tags to score the bill by topics. Had a score for each bill — now can use training data to say the bills that should be in the portfolios and cluster based on the training data 
  • Could personalize it
  • Has a clustering algorithm that clusters and tauches each bill
  • Puts output into a sheet
  • Would prefer to have a better interface — also create a national language processing model for bill texts

Ken Ward — House digital service

  • House digital service
  • Design service methodology
  • Starting discovery efforts this summer: discovery > design > development> delivery

Casey on Quill

  • Senate SAA — project manager for Quill
  • Started in the Senate, then to the House
  • How does quill help offices?
  • Authors can email and invite people to join and sign their letters — no more running around
  • Offices can control which staff have access to Quill
  • Search quill on housenet and webster
  • Invites 17 co-signers per letter on average — 2046 letters

David Tennent (Connect App)

Joseph Alessi, congressional app challenge

Jon Roberts

  • Luminary labs —
  • Open innovation (grants, prizes, contract, etc…) 

Steve Dwyer, House Maj. Leader

  • Demo of DomeDirectory, which helps you learn the faces and committee memberships
  • It’s a way to learn large new member classes — idea didn’t originate with Hoyer, but built upon the idea. 
  • Official sources of data can take many months before they’re available. We needed the data in November, but the official lists weren’t released until February. So we brute forced the document.
  • Big change in 2.0 is that we’re now using the official bulk data. Now using GPO, Clerk data.
  • Can also look at all the major caucuses and committees
  • Added contact information and biographies
  • Had to brute force the list of biographies because no master list — will release to the public
  • Badges for the caucuses
  • Add definition votes for this congress
  • Can now build individual decks


  • Phd students studying engineering and political science
  • No efficient/ user friendly tools to search through data — no central platform to crowdsource info
  • Chatbot — can respond to constituent queries about their representatives, also about legislation, and it can record opinions
  • Mobile app — can report issues with a marker on the map. Also a voice assistant.
  • Webdashboard that allows policymakers to gather insights from the crowdsourced data
  • Can summarize bills
  • Can respond with the sponsors
  • Muntaser Syed (Florida Institute of Technology)
  • Ebtesam Al Haque (George Mason) — see

Rachel Orey + Michael Thorning  with BPC

  • Deconflicting congressional meeting schedule
  • At any given hearing, 1 in 5 members need to be elsewhere
  • Have 10,000 scheduling conflicts per congress
  • Used optimization modeling techniques to identify a committee schedule == creates 3 committee scheduling blocks.
  • Took frequency of hearings / combined with hearings / created a cost to add to block a, b, or c
  • Can reduce scheduling conflicts by up to 86%

Now group leaders — break out groups

1 hr in break out rooms

Constituent Communications

  • Aubrey

Communicating with Constituents

  • Ernestine
  • Jordan

Legislative data

  • Christian
  • Maya

Constituent Services and Casework

  • Ananda


  • Austin
  • Georgia 

Modern Hearings

  • Daniel Sancacruz
  • Derek Harley

Cybersecurity group recommendations

1.  Bug bounty program, e.g. hack the pentagon.

2. Continuing education for staff — cybersecurity education for staff, not just once a year. Includes maintaining metrics to shift with the threat landscape (so test on what the elevated threat is.)

3. Improving authentication when accessing House devices (on campus or off). Using multi factor authentication with physical security keys (not just tokens.)

4. Treating education of the general public in cybersecurity as a national security issue.


Who owns constituent data and how can we be good stewards?

1. Help constituents figure out what’s done with their own data. For example, whether to share constituent data when a member leaves (loses, redistrict, etc.) Change the rules from opt in to opt out.

2. How can we gather more touchpoints for constituents to give feedback about success stories or the way things could be improved. (How can we improve the user experience.)

3. Dashboard to see where we are in the casework; which ones are taking long; what’s holding things up

4. Also ability to look at casework across offices. Can you aggregate the data across all offices? Is there a standard time to resolve? Etc.

5. Maybe make metadata public? A heatmap of the nation for hotspots for issues — e.g., who’s having trouble with medicaid, etc.

Legislative data

How to help legislators better understand the bills they’re working with —

1. Select a variety of different bills and then compare across metadata. If this info in another bill already? What agency is it being referred to? Funding level? Is there a payfor? History about the bill using open source contributions

2. Look at version tracking of bill text. Look at the times that people are making changes. CAn share with the public to better understand what’s going into the drafting of the bills.

Data Modeling and STandards

Data modeling and data standards and use cases and user stories. There’s a lot of different use cases and use stories related to modeling legislative data, but there isn’t a centralized channel for the people who need or want to use that data to convey those user stories.

  • Maybe use a github repo to talk about the use cases for certain types of data. Get feedback on the user stories

Telephone Directory leg branch wide

User story — if I want to find everyone who works on issue x; or need to find the subject matter expert at CBO, can find them. Or I can find the person who is responsible for printing a thing.

Want to have a controlled vocabulary. Can have things that self-reports, whether subject matter or roles and responsibilities. People in support offices know they can find to talk about things.

e-Dear Colleagues

The key is to link the controlled list from the directory with the list from e-dear colleagues. Connect to the various issue areas.

Modernizing the amendment submission process

A little bit of fix could go a long way. Apply the beginning steps of the data science model to the legislative process. Take all of the different amendments, put them into a structured database.

Benefits for 3 key groups: committee members and staff, to make the process more streamlined; leg counsel, to translate the amendments into rules process; and for anyone observing the markup to better understand what the majority and minority opinions and ideas and votes were.

All of this should use machine readable data

Build an amendment form — put to a file — gets submitted with metadata — assign with a unique id — have admin access — pushed to internal website


We don’t use our CMS systems well. Identifying the main problems:

  • Get a lot of data in from constituents; but we don’t reuse to communicate back with constituents
  • We don’t have the staff to fix the problem. Need tools to make the response streamlined or automated.
  • Preferred constituent communication types are changing. Usual response is a form letter. Does that satisfy the constituent? How to fit for younger audiences?
  • There is news that members want to communicate but they can’t because of the opt-in system
  • CMS take time to develop and maybe there’s tools that can be connected to the CMS’s.


— Calling, text messaging, twitter, social media — no matter the platform, the content of the message is important. Put all the data into a central location. Tags and summarizes the incoming data to the representative. Uses NLM to process.

— Application for geo-mapping tool — how dollars are spent in the district. (This exists I think as USAspending)

— Take a user personna approach, could respond by issue area. Create response guides depending on who your target it.

Modern Hearing

How to blend desire for members to be in pierson while listening to people from across the country

— video first hearing room, setup for videoconferences for congressional hearings

— having a scheduling system for some of the bigger hearings rooms so more committees can rotate through — can be more engagement than 5 on 5 off

— central site for all committee pages and streams to be focused in a microsite. Allows for more people to follow along.