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 allows you to retrieve information via faceted navigation, just as you do throughout the rest of the site.
You can even save your customized search by creating an account.
On THOMAS, individual accounts were a feature that the system could not support. Now you will have the option to save your search so you can quickly run it again later. This is especially useful for those highly complex customized queries. Adding accounts will enable us to do new things with the system in the future.
We have also added a facet for Member Remarks in the Congressional Record, which is based on a new metadata field provided by the Government Printing Office. Currently, the data included in this facet dates back to 2009. A link to Member Remarks in the Congressional Record was also added to the Member profile pages.
The About section has been expanded with the aim of making Congress.gov more user friendly. Also with this release, you can now access a Frequently Asked Questions section, which covers:
- Congress.gov Overview
- Learn Congress.gov and the Legislative Process
- Features, Updates and Technology (which includes a link to a page on how to embed the Congress.gov search box on your website)
- Congressional Record
- THOMAS Retirement
I highlighted some of these Congress.gov enhancements during my presentation at the 2014 Legislative Data Transparency Conference. Grant Vergottini, in his write up of the conference, stated that although it was “still in beta, this site has now essentially replaced the older Thomas site.” I would have to agree.
These improvements build upon those added in February: Advanced Search, Browse, and the Appropriations Table.
Below, Robert–who picks up writing the enhancements for this release from Jeanine, who is a little busy with Magna Carta–goes into greater detail on what’s new:
This release adds many new features and enhancements to existing features. The new features include: nominations, individual accounts, saved searches, and the ability to search the Congressional Record by speaker.
New feature – Nominations
Nominations have been added to the site.
- Supports cross-data-source facets Congress, Senate Committee;
- Supports nominations-specific facets nomination type, is-privileged, nomination status, nominee state
- Nomination detail page functionality supports:
- Variants for single nominee, multiple nominees, single position, multiple position, foreign service nominations, split nominations, nominations with very long lists of nominees;
- Action display in the same template as bill actions;
- Inner facets for nominee lists; nominee state, position, division.
- A nomination landing page has been added.
- Updates have been made to the home page to support nominations.
- Nominations have been added to the activity scope of the committee profile pages.
New feature – Accounts
Optional accounts are now available. Accounts facilitate access to customizable features, such as saved searches. The accounts functionality allows a user to:
- Sign up for an account using an email address, including email confirmation procedures.
- Sign in using email address and user-created password.
New feature – Saved Searches
- Saved searches allow the user to save a search from the search results page. This will be available from a basic faceted/text search, from the advanced search interface, and from the command line search interface.
- A “Saved Searches” page allows the user to modify the title/description of a search, run a saved search, or remove a saved search.
New feature – Congressional Record Speaker Element
- A new facet has been added to the Congressional Record data source. This facet will behave similarly to the existing legislative Cosponsor facet.
- A search link has been added to Member profile page which will return a list of all Congressional Record articles in which this member was speaking.
- Improved sorting of global search results: added lower level support to sort-by-date choices; added choice to sort by law number. Added number sorts to browse lists.
- “About” pages for Legislation, Committees, Committee Reports, Members, and Nominations. This new content is presented along with pre-existing “About” content into a new “About” section. A Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) page has also been added. Pages have been added to list field values for Congresses, major action codes, policy areas, and legislative subject terms.
- Added committee referral and committee reports to search results and bill detail page overview.
- Small improvements have been made to the bill detail page: improved display of titles; ordered columns on committee tab to match actions tab; adjusted display order of committee reports; and added sort to amendment tab.
- For committee names that have changed, showed the committee name at the time of the bill/amendment.
- Adjusted tracker for concurrent resolutions with resolving differences step.
If you would like training on how to use Congress.gov or the recent enhancements, Robert and Barbara have scheduled a webinar for July 17 at 2:00 p.m. that we encourage you to sign up for.
We continue to take steps to remove the beta label from Congress.gov. Thanks to all of you for providing us such great feedback during this period of transition. You have certainly helped improve Congress.gov.