So Long, THOMAS

The Library of Congress announced that the legislative information website THOMAS is scheduled to stop functioning on July 5, with Congress.gov to replace its functionality. This will allow the Library to focus all its energy on Congress.gov instead of having also to maintain a very awkward, 21-year-old website.

I’m sure that many news reports will give credit to Newt Gingrich for THOMAS. It is true that he was largely responsible for the political lifting required to build the site, which is a big deal. It was not his brain child, however, and a fair amount of technical work was previously performed under the democrats, who lost power in 1994/5. There were prior efforts to make legislative information available to the general public, including a wrongheaded effort by GPO to sell the data and the clever use of GOPHER to release data, which I dare not try to describe. Continue reading “So Long, THOMAS”

Thoughts on Public Access to CRS Reports and the Next Librarian of Congress: Watching Hayden Testify

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Second row view of Dr. Hayden testifying before Sens. Blunt and Schumer, taken by the author.

Yesterday I sat behind Dr. Carla Hayden as she testified on her pending nomination as Librarian of Congress before the Senate Rules committee. It was a surprisingly emotional moment, as I waited among her friends and family who were so very excited to see an amazing woman nominated for this high honor. Her mother was there, who was impressively poised and elegant among the crowd of well wishers. Many had traveled a long distance to be there today. Continue reading “Thoughts on Public Access to CRS Reports and the Next Librarian of Congress: Watching Hayden Testify”

What We’re Looking For at Wednesday’s Hearing on the Librarian of Congress Nominee

On Wednesday, the Senate Rules Committee will hear from Dr. Carla HaydenPresident Obama’s nominee to serve as the next Librarian of Congress. Last June I described criteria President Obama should use in choosing his nominee. Continue reading “What We’re Looking For at Wednesday’s Hearing on the Librarian of Congress Nominee”

The Rules That Rule the Rules

Politico’s Burgess Everett reports today on Sen. Mike Lee, who intends to run for the number 4 spot in the Republican Party Senate leadership but has become ensnared in a fight over party rules. Sen. Lee says he is running for an open seat because the current holder of that spot, Sen. Barrasso, is term limited under party rules, but Sen. McConnell doesn’t see it the same way, arguing Sen. Barrasso still can run for another term. Politically, running for an open seat is different from challenging an incumbent.

Personnel and process determine policy. How parties choose who serves in leadership roles, as committee chairs, and as members of particular committees matters a lot. To a large extent, the rules of the party conference or caucus control who can serve in leadership, as a committee chair, or on a committee — and lots of other things, too. Continue reading “The Rules That Rule the Rules”

3 Cheers for the Door Stop Awards

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Photo courtesy the OpenGov Foundation

The OpenGov Foundation hosted the Door Stop Awards yesterday, which recognized the largely (but not entirely) unsung efforts to open the doors of Congress to the American people.

Last night, at the first ever Door Stop Awards last night, six Members of Congress and congressional staff were honored by the open government community for their tireless efforts to drag Congress into the digital age and make the legislative branch more open, responsive, and accountable.

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Photo courtesy the OpenGov Foundation

The honorees were:

 

  • The Honorable John Boehner
  • The Honorable Eric Cantor
  • The Honorable Steny Hoyer
  • The Honorable Jared Polis
  • Joe-Marie St. Martin
  • Karina Newton

Continue reading “3 Cheers for the Door Stop Awards”

Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog Published an Article Measuring Legislative Effectiveness. It’s Wrong and They Should Withdraw It.

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Photo source: Ted McGrath

Dear Professor Lazarus:

I just read your post on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, the headline of which declares “Hillary Clinton was a more effective lawmaker than Bernie Sanders.” Respectfully, there is insufficient data to make such a comparison and the conclusion cannot be supported by the available evidence. You should withdraw or amend the blogpost. Moreover, there is no good way to (quantitatively) measure legislative effectiveness. Let me explain why. Continue reading “Washington Post’s Monkey Cage Blog Published an Article Measuring Legislative Effectiveness. It’s Wrong and They Should Withdraw It.”

Our Problems with Parliaments (Revisited)

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The U.S. Capitol pre-expansion in 1846.

Is our representative democracy dying? Daniel Stid writes “the idea of representative democracy” is “on the ropes” in the lead to his thoughtful article exploring whether a representative democracy is still workable. He notes that public opinion is “giving it a beating.” Continue reading “Our Problems with Parliaments (Revisited)”