Library of Congress and Capitol Hill staff gathered today in the historic Thomas Jefferson Building for a special event launching Congress.gov, a new public beta site for accessing free, fact-based legislative information. Featuring platform mobility, comprehensive information retrieval and user-friendly presentation, the new site eventually will replace the THOMAS system, introduced in 1995.
“Thomas Jefferson believed that there should be little interfering with Congress and its constituents,” said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in his opening remarks during the event. “Congress.gov reaffirms for the 21st century Congress’s vision of a vital legislative information resource for all Americans.”
He then introduced Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.), chairman of the Committee on House Administration, and Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Vice-Chair of the Joint Committee on the Library, who also made remarks.
“Time marches on and it’s time now for [THOMAS’s] worthy successor,” said Lungren. “Transparency is the hallmark of American government, and Congress.gov will ensure that we meet that bedrock commitment and that we will succeed.”
“As we gather here today, the Library has been a key resource for the public to understand Congress,” said Harper. “Congress.gov will play an important role in improving transparency and efficiency. I hope our constituents will enjoy this new resource and look forward to the Library’s continued efforts.”
Also in attendance at the event were The Hon. Nancy Erickson, Secretary of the Senate; Bob Reeves, Deputy Clerk of the U.S. House; Dan Strodel, Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House; Davita Vance-Cook, Acting Printer of the United States, U.S. Government Printing Office; and Martina Bradford, Deputy Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.
One thing both congressmen mentioned and a point that was reiterated throughout the presentation was that the site is optimized for mobile devices, effectively displaying information and maintaining readability.
The Congress.gov site includes bill status and summary, bill text and member profiles and other new features like comprehensive searching across bill text, summary and statuses; persistent URLs for search results; Members’ legislative history and biographical profiles; and maintenance of existing features such as links to video of the House and Senate floor, top searched bills and the save/share feature. The site also features several new multimedia presentations on the legislative process. You can read more about the site here.
With the release of the beta site, the Library hopes to gather user feedback and have an opportunity to refine functionality while other content is incorporated, including the Congressional Record, committee reports, nominations, treaties and communications. Congress.gov will operate as a beta site for approximately one year as this work is completed. During that time, THOMAS will continue to operate as usual.
Data for the information system is provided by multiple legislative branch partners in this effort, including the Office of the Secretary of the Senate, the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Office of the Senate Sergeant at Arms, the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Government Printing Office.