THE TOP LINE
This past Thursday’s Bulk Data Task Force meeting had a ton of info about technology in Congress. There’s not room for it all, but here are some highlights:
Info about newly elected members of the House will be online in a structured data format from the House Clerk’s office by Nov. 13, and updated weekly thereafter, an amazing turnaround for data that historically has been hard to come by until January.
The Library is behind on publishing CRS reports. All “R series” reports should be up by the end of April, with the remaining reports expected by Sept. 30th. The statutory deadline was this past Sept. 18th. As of Sunday, CRSReports.Congress.gov had 1,251 reports. In the meantime, you can read all the current reports at EveryCRSReport.com.
A consolidated calendar for House and Senate meetings won’t be launched by the Library for the December 21st deadline, but a first phase will be completed in the first quarter (i.e. by Friday, March 29); it is expected to include information about all congressional proceedings. Integration of links to videos of proceedings may take longer. In the meantime, use GovTrack’s congressional committee calendar.
The refresh of Bioguide.Congress.gov — the website containing the names, photos, and biographies of every member of Congress — is on track. By the end of the March 2019, the information will be published as structured data and put on a secure (HTTPS) website. The long term goal is to create a publicly available API.
The House’s Truth in Testimony forms will become webforms. For now, they’ll generate PDFs that the committees will post individually to their webpages, but the long term goal is for the data to go into a central repository for publication, making it possible to track people as they testify before multiple committees.
GPO released an initial set of 40 Statute Compilations as a pilot on govinfolast week. More is coming. The compilation includes public laws that either do not appear in the U.S. Code or that have been classified to a title of the U.S. Code that has not been enacted into positive law.
Want to see how a draft bill would change the law in real time? The House is still working on it. The target date for making that tool available to Congressional staff is the end of 2019. And to the public? No date is set.
A few quick resources:
— GPO’s Developer Hub is a great resource for data stored on govinfo.gov.
— The Leg Branch Innovation Hub highlights tech-friendly leg branch activities. It includes info on bulk data task force meetings.
— Interested as Congress.gov rolls out new features? They’ve got a listservfor that.
We should note that five of the projects described above were required either in the FY 2017 or FY 2018 legislative branch appropriations bills.
LEGISLATIVE CAPACITY AND SUPPORT
The Architect of the Capitol (AOC) is stepping down, and replacing him won’t be a breeze. Notable about the complex process is how Congress tries to balance the competing interests in identifying nominees by creating a 14-member commission. This CRS report has the details.
LEGISLATIVE PROCESS AND POLY SCI
The Senate Hotline System used to be a way for service-oriented party leaders to help the rank and file participate in the legislative process. Not any more.
The Congressional Reformers Caucus is pushing reforms to “help more good ideas see the light of day.” And the newspaper The Hill is holding an event on Nov. 15 (RSVP) featuring the co-chairs of the problem solvers caucus.
The Leg Branch Working group has its usual smart round-up of congressional capacity-related news stories.
WHO’S THE BOSS
Leadership fights. There’s already jockeying on both sides of the aisle for leadership positions.
Senior House Republicans have tentatively scheduled elections for the week after midterms.
The Freedom Caucus will get bigger in the 116th Congress, both in raw numbers and as a percentage of the Republican conference.
Should the House flip, who will be in charge and what’s on their agenda? Everyone’s talking about who the Dems will subpoena, but I’m not seeing much chatter about how they’ll be enforced. And what’s going on with oversight, anyway?
Cornell, Harvard, and Court Listener launched the Caselaw Access Projectlast week. The database has centuries of case law including all official, book-published United States case law. There’s also a browsable API offering open access to descriptive metadata for the entire corpus. There are use limitations.
PHYSICAL AND CYBER SECURITY
A journalist deleted a tweet characterizing a protester’s interaction with Rep. Andy Harris as an “assault,” but not before it took off with right-wing twitter. Winston Churchill is often (erroneously) quoted as saying “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
Senator Manchin’s social media accounts were hacked.
The FEC issued a draft opinion on allowing members to use campaign funds to secure their personal electronic devices and accounts. Sen. Wyden prompted this draft, and it’s a welcome step forward for cybersecurity
The Anti-Defamation League called for Rep. Steve King’s censureconcerning his apparently anti-Semitic statements and comments. Rep. Steve Stivers, the NRCC chairman, had rebuked King, saying “Congressman Steve King’s recent comments, actions, and retweets are completely inappropriate. We must stand up against white supremacy and hate in all forms, and I strongly condemn this behavior.”
After a Jeff Fortenberry campaign was vandalized, his chief of staff, William Archer, made a call to a University of Nebraska professor who had liked the image on Facebook. When he didn’t respond fast enough, Archer apparently reported the professor to the university chancellor. The professor, after eventually talking with Archer, reported him to the House Ethics Committee for making what he viewed as threats. Now the American Association of University Professors has started a petition in support of the professor.
The House and Senate are out.
- At 4 the Senate convenes for a pro forma session
- At 10 R Street is hosting a discussion on threats to institutional and democratic norms.
Down the Line
- The next Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress meeting will be on Monday, December 3rd. The committee is comprised of the congressional officials responsible for its records.