Today’s interview is with Andrew Reiter, a legislative data specialist in the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Just like David, whom we interviewed previously, Andrew started out as a remote DRD intern.
Describe your background.
I attended the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and graduated with a degree in history. I worked for three years at the University of Michigan developing curriculum and in program management. I worked on the team that developed the Digital Studies Institute, where I worked on their curriculum development. Working and collaborating on an exciting project encouraged me to return to graduate school. Craving sun and a new city, I moved to Austin, Texas for my graduate degree at the School of Information at the University of Texas (U-T) at Austin. During my graduate program, I worked with the Texas Digital Library, where I did a lot of troubleshooting and worked on a variety of projects related to the running of a large digital library. While in my program, I became interested in metadata theory and application, which became my specialization in graduate school. I also have training in legal reference and research from graduate school, which has come in quite handy at CRS.
During my graduate program, I interned twice with the Library of Congress: once in my current office as a legislative data assistant and then in the Law Library as a metadata intern. I graduated from U-T with my master’s degree in information studies in May 2023 and immediately moved to D.C. for my position with CRS, which I interviewed for during my last year in my graduate program. After my internship, I knew I had always wanted to come back to CRS so I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to do so.
How would you describe your job to other people?
Our team ensures that congressional data is ingested and displays properly on Congress.gov. We work with a variety of data partners to guarantee this mission. Additionally, our team is involved in developing and enhancing Congress.gov for our users. We also provide support and training to congressional users. Every day is a bit different and each member of our team works on variety of projects so it is an energizing job with many moving pieces.
What is your role in the development of Congress.gov?
Our team is very collaborative and we each have different responsibilities and assignments related to Congress.gov. That said, I write documentation related to Congress.gov enhancements and developments, test new features, and collaborate with our data partners and our team to ensure that Congress.gov remains an excellent resource for legislative information. Additionally, I am working on our Congress.gov Application Program Interface (API), which has been an exciting and rewarding part of my position. I am fascinated by APIs and their ability to extract and share data in an accessible way. I am challenged every day in the best way possible with the development of our API project and I am particularly interested in this new feature of Congress.gov.
What is your favorite feature of Congress.gov?
I mentioned it before briefly but I think our API is a great and exciting feature of Congress.gov. I love that we have developed (and continue to develop and enhance) an API that gives users the option to download large amounts of legislative data for research and projects related to the U.S. Congress. The API covers a wide range of our collections on Congress.gov and as someone who is particularly interested in data and specifically metadata, I find this feature absolutely fascinating and very exciting for our users.
What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on Congress.gov?
One key aspect of the legislative process that I have started to appreciate more is how different the Senate and House of Representatives are in their rules and procedure. One example of this is through the requirement that an amendment be closely related to the text it seeks to amend. This is called “germaneness” and the rules between the House and the Senate are different. The House rules state that amendments must always be germane while the Senate rules are less restrictive in regards to germaneness and apply this in a more limited manner. It is interesting to try to wrap your head around the differences between the two branches of Congress. I love to learn some of the differences in procedures and rules, it is fascinating. I love that the Congress.gov glossary of legislative terms gives users the opportunity to understand some of the jargon associated with Congress, it helps illuminate all the rules and traditions that govern congressional procedures.
What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?
I have traveled extensively throughout the United Kingdom (UK) and Ireland and I can talk for hours about British and Irish history, food, drinks, sports, culture, and travel. I try to go back to the UK as often as I can. It is a really special place for me.
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