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Treaties, Text, and Timely Updates – Congress.gov Spring Cleaning

Since introducing Congress.gov in September 2012, we have continued to add the databases from THOMAS to the new system.  We launched with legislation, followed soon thereafter by the Congressional Record, Committee Reports, and nominations.  Today, we are releasing treaty documents.  You can select “All Sources” and search across all of these data sets at once, something that was not possible on THOMAS.  With this, all of the data sets in the left hand navigation of THOMAS are included in Congress.gov.  We have one more data set that was on the legacy system to add, Senate Executive Communications.

The bill text now defaults to the XML/HTML version. What does this actually mean? It is a much better layout that can include a linked table of contents and links to Public Laws and the U.S. Code.  It still looks great on mobile devices and is easier to navigate if you can click deeper into the legislation via the table of contents.

The default bill text is now the XML/HTML version.

The default bill text is now the XML/HTML version.

The Congress.gov team values user feedback.  From user testing, to surveys, and even comments to this blog, we collect and analyze feedback from a variety of users (including those for whom the site is named).  After announcing the update last year in February when advanced search, browse, and appropriations tables were added, we received several comments about the appropriations table, including “[t]he old appropriations table was much more detailed, with committee and subcommittee markups.”

In moving from the table on THOMAS to Congress.gov, we made the decision to streamline the table and use responsive design so it would be mobile friendly.  Based on feedback, we found that this was not what our users wanted.  They missed the detail of the THOMAS table.  With this release, the appropriations table is much more comprehensive (but no longer as mobile friendly).  Like always, please continue to tell us what you think.

Updated Congress.gov Appropriations Table Based on User Feedback

Updated Congress.gov Appropriations Table Based on User Feedback

The enhancements in this release follow a busy past twelve months during which we added nominations, accounts, saved searches in June, removed the beta label in September, and added email alerts in February.

For the complete list of what is new or enhanced as of today, Robert updated the Congress.gov enhancements page to include:

March 2015

New Feature – Treaties:

Treaty documents are available on Congress.gov for all treaties submitted to the Senate since the 94th Congress (1975-1976). Treaties submitted prior to the 94th Congress are included if they were pending in 1975. Treaty documents include the following features: 

  • Support for global search of treaties:
    • Text search via resolution text, treaty doc text, treaty topic, originating organization, countries, TIAS number, citation (including old treaty number), and index terms
    • Supports cross-data-source facet: Congress
    • Supports treaty-specific facets: Status of Treaty Document, Treaty Topic
  • The treaty detail page includes a detailed overview, list of Senate actions, and tabs for: resolution of ratification; treaty document; amendments; additional fields.
  • The treaties landing page, includes a treaty number search, links to relevant internal and external pages, and a faceted result set.
  • A link to treaties has been added to the homepage.
  • Treaties have been added to the activity scope of the committee profile page (this feature only affects Senate Foreign Service committee).
  • Treaties have been added to overview box for amendments that amend treaties.

New Feature – Executive Reports:

  • Executive Reports, dating from 1995-present, have been added to the scope of the existing Committee Reports functionality. 
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee profile will feature treaties, in addition to legislation and nominations.

Enhancement – Advanced Search:

  • The following fields have been added:
    • Related bills
    • Subjects
    • Private legislation (in the command line)
    • Congress (for the Congressional Record collection)
    • Date range searches for “Latest Action” of nominations and treaties
  • Treaty fields
  • An “Is all of” operator has been added to the following fields:
    • Action – Status of Legislation
    • Committee – House
    • Committee – Senate
  • The advanced search form has been widened.
  • The advanced search form interface supports curated “popular” legislative action searches that can be selected from a menu.
  • Advanced search and command line search results can be refined with facets.

New Browse Options

Enhancement – Browse:

  • New reports/tables are available, allowing the user to browse:
    • Bills with Chamber Action
    • Major Actions on Bills and Amendments
    • Actions by Committees and Subcommittees

Enhancement – Bills are in XML as the default display option in the Text tab of bill detail page:

  • XML will display as the default in Text tab of the bill detail page.

Enhancement – Current information about activity on the House and Senate Floor is now displayed on the homepage:

  • Congress.gov displays current Congressional activity on the homepage, including current-day bill, nomination, and treaty record links for items considered by the House and Senate.
  • The start and end time of next and previous House and Senate daily chamber sessions will display on the homepage.

Enhancement – Member Profiles:

  • URLS now display BioGuide IDs.

Enhancement – Appropriations Table:

  • Per user feedback, the appropriation tables have been revised and now include additional fields, such as subcommittee information.

We continue to take steps to improve Congress.gov. Thanks to all of you for providing us such great feedback during this period of transition from THOMAS. You have certainly helped improve Congress.gov!

Twenty Years of THOMAS

Even though we are working to retire THOMAS, I thought we should celebrate the fact that it has now been online for twenty years!  THOMAS was a pioneer when it was launched on January 5, 1995.  It was even noteworthy that THOMAS was “available 24 hours a day.”  I have been at the Library of […]

The Congress.gov Top 14 in 2014

I love end of the year lists.  It is nice to take a step back from the day to day or month to month and look at trends over time.  Last year I surveyed the top 13 in 2013 and decided to add another item to the list this year. This has been an eventful […]

Budget Resolutions and Authorizing Legislation

I have previously written about the budget process and appropriations.  Now, I am turning to authorization legislation. In theory, process for funding the government is an orderly one in which each year the President proposes a budget; the U.S. Congress passes appropriations legislation; the enrolled bills are sent to the President for signing; and voila, government agencies […]

Congress.gov: Removing the Beta Label and New Enhancements

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 […]

Making Legislative Information Accessible, Discoverable and Usable

The following is a guest post by Noriko Ohtaki, who was a research fellow at the Law Library of Congress.  She previously blogged about Searching for Current Japanese Laws and Regulations. G8 leaders signed the Open Data Charter on June 18, 2013.  Open Data is intended to make information resources accessible, discoverable, and usable electronically to the public, increase […]

Top 10 for the First 6 Months of 2014

This year seems to be flying by.  Our team of bloggers has posted over 100 times to In Custodia Legis so far this year.  Of those 100 posts, two of the top ten most viewed have to do with time.  There is also significant interest in tracing legislation and Congress.gov. Advanced Search, Browse, and Appropriations […]

Nominations, Accounts, Saved Searches – Congress.gov Continues to Grow

I have been looking forward to this Congress.gov release for several months.  There is now nomination information, accounts, the ability to save searches, an expanded About section, an FAQ section, easy access to Member remarks in the Congressional Record, and more. With the new updates, you can locate nominations dating back to 1981.  The nominations section […]