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New End of Year Congress.gov Enhancements: Quick Search, Congressional Record Index, and More

In our quest to retire THOMAS, we have made many enhancements to Congress.gov this year.  Our first big announcement was the addition of email alerts, which notify users of the status of legislation, new issues of the Congressional Record, and when Members of Congress sponsor and cosponsor legislation.  That development was soon followed by the addition of treaty documents and better default bill text in early spring; improved search, browse, and accessibility in late spring; user driven feedback in the summer; and Senate Executive Communications and a series of Two-Minute Tip videos in the fall.

congressdotgov-legislation-quick-search

Quick Search

Today’s update on end of year enhancements includes a new Quick Search for legislation, the Congressional Record Index (back to 1995), and the History of Bills from the Congressional Record Index (available from the Actions tab).  We have also brought over the State Legislature Websites page from THOMAS, which has links to state level websites similar to Congress.gov.

Text of legislation from the 101st and 102nd Congresses (1989-1992) has been migrated to Congress.gov. The Legislative Process infographic that has been available from the homepage as a JPG and PDF is now available in Spanish as a JPG and PDF (translated by Francisco Macías). Margaret and Robert added Fiscal Year 2003 and 2004 to the Congress.gov Appropriations Table. There is also a new About page on the site for XML Bulk Data.

The Quick Search provides a form-based search with fields similar to those available from the Advanced Legislation Search on THOMAS.  The Advanced Search on Congress.gov is still there with many additional fields and ways to search for those who want to delve deeper into the data.  We are providing the new Quick Search interface based on user feedback, which highlights selected fields most likely needed for a search.

New State Legislature Websites page added in the December 20015 release

New State Legislature Websites page added in the December 20015 release

Robert also provided the comprehensive list of enhancements for this release:

December 2015

New feature – Legislation Quick Search:

  • Search Bill Status (metadata 1973-present), with or without Bill Text (full text 1993-present), collection by any combination of Congresses, sponsor and/or cosponsor, committee, legislative action (curated searches), and keywords.
  • Streamlined search results list allows user to:
    • Display or hide the tracker
    • Display or hide the facets
  • Bill detail page opens for single item search results, bypassing results list display

New feature – Congressional Record Index:

  • Search the Congressional Record Index (CRI) 1995-present (beginning with the 104th Congress)
    • Search CRI for terms, only
    • Search CRI for terms plus text of annotated entries
  • Use the A-to-Z ribbon to browse the CRI
  • CRI annotated entries link to referenced CR pages and bill detail pages

Enhancements – Legislation:

  • ‘Bill History in the Congressional Record‘ links from Actions tab features ‘History of Bills’ entries from CRI
  • Cosponsors tab
    • Sponsor name displays on the cosponsor tab
    • Statistics for current, original, and withdrawn cosponsors display
  • Command Line search form supports Date of Major Action search using Major Action Codes
  • ‘Action on Legislation – Browse by Date’ now includes amendments. This browse was previously titled ‘Bills with Chamber Action (Daily Digest)’
  • Search and browse historic bill texts has been added to the existing collection. New texts are from 1989-1992 (101st and 102nd Congresses)

Enhancements – User Experience:

  • Spanish-language legislative process infographic
  • U.S. States and Territories interactive finding aid map
Legislative Process Chart in Spanish

Legislative Process Chart in Spanish

What else would you like to see on Congress.gov?  Please let us know how you think we can make it better!

9 Comments

  1. Leslie Alwiel
    December 14, 2015 at 5:33 pm

    Love the state legislature links too! Keep up the good work

  2. Yasmin
    December 14, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Bravo! You guys are doing an excellent job, thank you for all your hard work. I’m sure you don’t hear this nearly enough as you should, but thank you!

  3. KSC
    December 15, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Could you explain a bit more how to locate the CR Index back to 1995? And then how to get to the History of Bills within any given index? When I click the link, I only see current content offered in the dropdown. Thanks!

  4. Andrew Weber
    December 15, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    The Congressional Record Index and History of Bills are only available in the current Congress right now. The prior Congresses will be added next. The information on a specific piece of legislation from the History of Bills is available under the Actions tab. For example on H.R.2250 with the Actions tab selected, you will see “Bill History – Congressional Record References.”

  5. Dee Stonewall
    December 16, 2015 at 12:02 pm

    Keep up the great work. Tis all appreciated. Thank you.

  6. Donald Taylor
    December 17, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    On 1st screen for introduced Bills, in addition to the tabs already present, I would appreciate having another tab added for “related bills”. That would save many hundreds of clicking to another screen to get that information, and I definitely need that information for each Bill being tracked.That information is included in Thomas, and not having it on the 1st screen in Congress.Gov will continue to require me to continue to use Thomas.

  7. mn
    December 18, 2015 at 1:49 am

    What is being searched when you do a quick search? On THOMAS it says “Search Bill Summary & Status” and I think I know what that means. But on this Congress.gov quick search it says “Legislation” and I’m not sure I know what that includes. Is it only searching legislation and not bill summary and status? On the “About Legislation” link on the quick search page it explains that “the legislation collection includes records for every bill and resolution.” What is a record? Does a record include bill summary and status or only bill text? If it includes bill text, why is there a separate place to check that says “include bill text in this search.” If the search is already for “Legislation,” why isn’t it automatically searching the legislation? It seems like you’re saying that legislation does not include bill text, but I would think that legislation means only bill text. Can you also explain what can be entered in the “Words / Phrases” box. It doesn’t seem to work the same as the THOMAS search. Thank you so much for any help you can provide.

  8. Andrew Weber
    December 18, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Donald, There is a related bills tab on Congress.gov. For example, H.J.Res.78 lists two other bills. On THOMAS it only includes the relationship. On Congress.gov in addition to the relationship, the related bill titles are displayed and their latest action.

    Also, there are 3 Related Bills search fields that may be useful to you. Find them in the dropdown menu. (Open the menu that has ‘Congress’ as the default. ‘Related Bills’ is at the bottom of that menu.)

    The glossary provides additional information about Related Bills.

  9. Gregory Watson
    July 26, 2016 at 10:47 am

    One thing that I loved about the now-retired (07-05-2016) THOMAS system was the ability to conduct a key-word / key-phrase search of the text of the Congressional Record. The THOMAS system would tell you that it found items exactly matching your search criteria, or that the words were close to each other–but not identical to what you requested. Now, it seems that that ability has been completely taken away and replaced with absolutely nothing. Please restore the ability to conduct a key-word / key-phrase search of the text of the Congressional Record. Thank you.

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