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Congress.gov Spring Cleaning: Expanded Quick Search

Over the last several months, we have added a variety of enhancements to Congress.gov.  It began with the Communications in October, the Congressional Record Index in December, and the XML Bulk Data via GPO in February.  Today’s update focuses on expanding Quick Search on Congress.gov.

When the Quick Search on Congress.gov first launched in December 2015, the initial focus was on legislation.  With this release, there is now a Quick Search for:

Expanded Quick Search on Congress.gov

Expanded Quick Search on Congress.gov

One nice addition across Quick Search is the ability to turn on and off both word variants and case sensitivity.

Word Variants/Case Sensitive

Word Variants/Case Sensitive

If you want to run a search on AIDS and do not want results with foreign aid, for example, mixed into the result set, you can uncheck Word Variants and check Case Sensitive before running your search.

There are also a couple of new fields added to what we affectionately refer to as the Accordion of Knowledge (the expandable/collapse-able area currently on the bottom half of the Command Line search: Action Date (actionDateStr:) and Cosponsorship Date (cosponsorDateStr:).  A great thing about the Accordion of Knowledge is that for each item in it there is an example that you can cut and paste into the search box.

Margaret and Robert continued working on the Congress.gov Appropriations Table and added Fiscal Year 2001 and 2002.

In addition to some of the more visible changes to Congress.gov, with this release there were approximately 30 new changes based on requests from our congressional data partners.

As part of our ongoing effort towards retiring THOMAS, we have started to redirect selected links from THOMAS to Congress.gov. The image below of the THOMAS homepage shows the links that now go Congress.gov.

Circled links on the THOMAS homepage now redirect to Congress.gov as part of the effort to retire THOMAS.

Circled links on the THOMAS homepage now redirect to Congress.gov as part of the effort to retire THOMAS.

Robert once again added a complete run through on the Congress.gov Enhancements page:

New feature – Quick Search for more data collections:

  • Congressional Record
  • Committee Reports
  • Nominations
  • Treaty Documents
  • Communications to the Senate

New feature – RSS Feeds:

  • RSS feeds similar to those in THOMAS have been added:
    • Most Viewed Bills
    • Search Tips
    • House Floor Today
    • Senate Floor Today
    • Bills Presented to the President

New feature – Word variants and case sensitivity:

  • Word variant controls allow you to find ‘parking’ without false hits for ‘parks’
  • Case sensitivity controls allow you to find ‘TIGER’ without false hits for ‘tiger’
  • Quick search and Command Line support word variants and case sensitivity

Enhancement – Nominations links to hearings:

  • Nominations Actions link to hearings

Enhancement – New Command Line Search Fields:

  • Find legislation by dates of action with ‘actionDateStr’
  • Find cosponsorships by date with ‘cosponsorDateStr’

I encourage you to keep submitting your feedback for Congress.gov.  Whether it is a little issue or a new suggestion, we are listening.  I recently presented a Congress.gov Deep Dive with Barbara to LLSDC.  An attendee pointed out how the default search on Congress.gov started off being All Legislation.  She (and a few others) submitted feedback that it change to Current Legislation.  This is just one example of where feedback fueled an update to our site.


  1. Jennifer
    April 4, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Do you mean that the default is now Current Legislation and they recommended switching it All Legislation. When I go to Congress.gov my default is Current Legislation.

  2. Andrew Weber
    April 4, 2016 at 2:40 pm

    Thanks for your comment, Jennifer. When we launched Congress.gov, the default was All Legislation. We had a variety of user feedback asking for it to be Current Legislation, which is what we switched it to (and it still is today).

  3. Jennifer
    April 4, 2016 at 3:21 pm

    Got it. I think I got confused because you said you’d just met with LLSDC and I thought that’s when they made the change. Count me as a law librarian who’d prefer All Legislation. Having to change it every time drives me nuts!

  4. John P Miller
    April 5, 2016 at 10:47 am

    Thanks for sharing with us this latest addition. I appreciate it very much.

  5. Britt Blaser
    April 9, 2016 at 1:03 pm

    Does congress.gov categorize bills by the issue(s) they address, like Immigration or Health care? If so, can they be searched by issue? And what is the list of issues and sub issues?

    If not, does any other service categorize bills by issue?

    Thank you.

    • Andrew Weber
      April 11, 2016 at 2:54 pm

      Britt, Congress.gov does categorize bills by topic in a couple of ways. One is by policy area, with a list of 32 areas that you can browse. When searching on Congress.gov, you can also use the facet, Subject — Policy Area, to reduce your results to just the selected policy area. The other is the categorization by Legislative Subject Terms. One difference between the two types of categorization is that several Legislative Subject Terms could be applied to a single measure, whereas just one policy area term is used for each measure.

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