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The “Evolving” Congress

Here is a new CRS report on “The Evolving Congress.” It is a compendium of 22 reports that examine how and why Congress evolved over the previous decades to where it is today.

  • Congressional Research Service. 2014. The Evolving Congress. Senate. Committee on Rules and Administration. Senate Committee Print 113–30 (“89–394”) (Y 4.R 86/2) Washington: Government Printing Office. (December 1, 2014).

Well documented with lots of citations.

Table of Contents

  • The Evolving Congress: Overview and Analysis of the Modern Era
  • Being a Member of Congress: Some Notable Changes During the Last Half Century
  • Tweet Your Congressman: The Rise of Electronic Communications in Congress
  • Collaborative Relationships and Lawmaking in the U.S. Senate: A Perspective Drawn from Firsthand Accounts
  • The 113th Congress and the U.S. Population: Discussion and Analysis of Selected Characteristics
  • Congressional Staffing: The Continuity of Change and Reform
  • The Unchanging Nature of Congressional Elections
  • Understanding Congressional Approval: Public Opinion from 1974 to 2014
  • Comparing Modern Congresses: Can Productivity Be Measured?
  • Recent Innovations in Special Rules in the House of Representatives
  • Changes in the Purposes and Frequency of Authorizations of Appropriations
  • Congress Evolving in the Face of Complexity: Legislative Efforts to Embed Transparency, Participation, and Representation in Agency Operations
  • Committee Assignments and Party Leadership: An Analysis of Developments in the Modern Congress
  • Congress and Financial Crises
  • Shocks to the System: Congress and the Establishment of the Department of Homeland Security
  • Like Clockwork: Senate Consideration of the National Defense Authorization Act
  • The SBA and Small Business Policymaking in Congress
  • Use of the Appropriations Process to Influence Census Bureau Policy: The Case of Adjustment
  • The Evolution of U.S. Disaster Relief Policy
  • Congress’ Role in the Evolution of Federal Block Grants as a Policy Instrument: From Community Development to Homeland Security
  • The Tax Extenders: How Congressional Rules and Outside Interests Shape Policy
  • The Dynamics of Congressional Policymaking: Tax Reform

Congress.gov: out of beta and with new enhancements

Congress.gov now out of beta!
The Library of Congress launched Congress.gov in beta two years ago. A few days ago, they removed the beta label — 3 years faster than gmail! There are many new enhancements with this update. Some of the new features include a new Resources section that provides an A-to-Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress, more Browse options, many new fields in the Advanced search and much more. URLs that include beta.Congress.gov will be redirected to Congress.gov. You can read about the update on the Law Library’s blog, In Custodia Legis.

The Library of Congress launched Congress.gov in beta two years ago.  Today, I’m happy to announce we officially removed the beta label. That’s roughly three years quicker than Gmail took to remove its beta label, but we won’t give you the option of putting it back on Congress.gov.  URLs that include beta.Congress.gov will be redirected to Congress.gov.

There are a range of new enhancements in this release.  One of the exciting additions is a new Resources section.  This section provides an A-to-Z list of hundreds of links related to Congress.  If you are not sure where something is located, try looking through this list.  I quickly jump through the list using Ctrl+F and searching.  You can find the new Resources page in the navigation on the top right or in the footer on every page.  Check it out and leave a comment below.

via Congress.gov: Removing the Beta Label and New Enhancements | In Custodia Legis: Law Librarians of Congress.

Be the Bill: Legislative Explorer visualizes the legislative process

This is what open data can do. Check out Legislative Explorer, an interactive visualization that allows anyone to explore actual patterns of lawmaking in Congress, compare bills and resolutions introduced by Senators and Representatives and follow their progress from the beginning to the end of a two year Congress. You can filter by topic, type of legislation, chamber, party, member, or even search for a specific bill.

Legislative Explorer draws from an underlying relational database that includes information about the legislative histories, topics and sponsors of more than 250,000 bills and resolutions (1973-present). The database is updated nightly to reflect changes in the status of current bills.

  • The Library of Congress, THOMAS website (including Congress.gov)
  • E. Scott Adler and John Wilkerson, The Congressional Bills Project
  • Josh Tauberer, Govtrack.us and Unitedstates/Congress GitHub
  • Charles Stewart and Jonathon Woon, Congressional Committees dataset
  • Keith Poole, VoteView

Legislative Explorer data is updated nightly. More detailed descriptions of the data sources and bulk downloads are available at: http://cappp.org/index.php/data.

HT to Cass Hartnett who posted about this on govdoc-l.

Sunlight Foundation Congress App: Great App Put to Immediate use

We recently became aware of a new(ish) app from the Sunlight Foundation. It is the Congress App and is available for both iOS and Android.  We think anyone who is interested in keeping tabs on Congress and who owns a smartphone ought to download this app.

I (Daniel) have the Android version, which is divided into these sections:

  • People (Representatives and Senators)
  • Bills
  • Votes
  • The Floor
  • Hearings
  • Committees

Because of the way that Congress itself chooses to disseminate information the public, bill information and vote information can be delayed. Although it is much easier to have the latest Congressional votes at your fingertips instead of digging to find them.

People is great. It was easy for me to add my Congressional delegation to a tracking list. For each Member of Congress you can do the following:

  • Call their office
  • Visit their website
  • View their voting record
  • See their sponsored bills
  • View committees they are a part of
  • See news from across the internet mentioning your Member of Congress.

As a full time information activist and an on and off political junkie and social justice person, I find this app incredibly helpful. I was also able to put it to immediate use.

In what could be a whole other post, the American Library Association (ALA) Washington Office is reporting that the secret negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) has this bad news for the Public Domain:

If you use the public domain — which we all do — we’re all going to get stiffed, because there are proposals to lengthen the Berne-mandated terms from life + 50 years, to life + 70, or even life + 100 years.

There’s other bad news for copyright, including bad news for creators. There’s disturbing news on other fronts regarding the TPP, so I urge you to read the whole article.

I read ALA’s blog post right after installing the Congress App. So I used it to visit the websites of my two Senators and House member and send quick e-mails urging them to reject “fast tracking” the TPP and telling them I found ANY further extension of copyright terms unacceptable. I hope you’ll take the same message to your Congress people. You don’t have to use Sunlight’s app, but it does make it easier.

Moving back to the app itself, I wanted to remind you that free apps like these are only possible because Congressional information is publicly available. If Congress decided to go back into paper or only license its digital data to one vendor, we couldn’t have things like this.


Wow! xkcd maps Congress’s political leanings since the start of the republic

Randall Munroe has outdone himself. XKCD, the “webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language,” just posted another amazing, wall-sized infographic, this one depicting the historical ideological swings of left, right and center of the US Senate and House of Representatives (here are Randall’s other *huge* and hugely fascinating infographics).

Be sure to read the side boxes and especially the one on methodology of how ideology was calculated. He meticulously accounts for the historical shift in the left/right spectrum between Republicans and Democrats.

That is all.

[HT BoingBoing!]