On September 19, 2012, 10 years ago today, Congress.gov was launched, providing enhanced access to federal legislative information. Congress.gov was created to replace our old THOMAS site that dated back to the 1990s. Congress.gov improved upon Thomas as it incorporated a powerful search engine. It also took advantage of the advent of responsive web design, which allows the site to scale to the device you are using, whether that is a tablet, phone, or desktop. As Andrew Weber explained in his 2012 post announcing the launch of the site:
THOMAS launched in the mid-1990s using technology that was no longer capable of providing new functionality users have come to expect in a website. The Congress.gov platform enhances access through features such as videos explaining the legislative process, compatibility with mobile devices, and a user-friendly presentation.
To celebrate 10 years of Congress.gov, we asked our colleagues about their favorite, lesser-known features. Here’s what they had to say.
Legislative Information Systems Management Specialist, Amy Swantner:
My favorite, lesser known feature is the full list of actions available to search from the Advanced Legislation search form. This feature is invaluable to users who need to find legislation that has undergone very specific steps in the legislative process. For example, you can search for bills and resolutions considered under suspension of rules in House or Senate amendments referred to committee. And you can combine an action search with other criteria including keywords, sponsor and committee.
Head Legislative Information Systems Management, Kimberly Ferguson:
I have two favorites. The first is that “Current Congress” is the global default search. This relatively new convenience saves researchers from previously soloed search collections. For example, if a researcher wants to find information about the newest Supreme Court nominee, they can simply type “Ketanji” into the “Current Congress” search default, then use the “Limit Your Search” filter to narrow down the results to items any of these collections: Nominations, Committee Meetings, Congressional Record, House Communications, or Senate Communications.
The second favorite is the Law Library’s project to make historical Congressional Record Daily Digest PDFs available for single days (instead of a giant PDF for each year). The Daily Digest is my absolute favorite section of the Congressional Record. It is like the daily executive summary of the business of Congress. The Daily Digest is mandated by law; the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (Public Law 79-601, 60 Stat. 812) which introduced lots of data standardization and data transparency practices. The very first issue of the Daily Digest is March 17, 1947.
Legislative Data Specialist, Cassidy Charles:
The Keyword In Context feature is available for Congressional Record quick search form results. On the results screen on the results page, there is a “Show Keywords In Context” checkbox. When selected, this feature will display a snippet of text below each result item, showing the keywords that were searched for in the context of the document so a researcher can decide if the result is relevant to their search.
Congress.gov Product Owner, Andrew Weber:
One thing I really like is the ability to link directly into the text of legislation on Congress.gov. Rather than just going to the text tab, you can copy the link from the right side of the text, and you can to have someone go straight to the language you are referencing, as in this example: “(7) The legislative branch has also embraced digital signatures. Every bill posted to congress.gov is digitally signed by the Government Publishing Office.”
Law Library of Congress Office of External Relations Chief, Robert Brammer:
I like that you can easily locate member remarks in the Congressional Record by visiting a member’s profile page and clicking “See this Member’s Remarks in the Congressional Record” at the top, right.
Senior Legal Information Specialist, Jennifer González:
My favorite feature of Congress.gov is whatever is coming next. It seems like there is always something new, whether it be a new historic collection, an expansion to another collection, new proposed bills, or a new feature. I look forward to reading the blog posts to find out what each new release includes and the monthly New, Tip, and Top emails for the monthly recap.
Subscribe to In Custodia Legis – it’s free! – to receive interesting posts drawn from the Law Library of Congress’s vast collections and our staff’s expertise in U.S., foreign, and international law.