Bulk Data Task Force Reports Major Strides at October 2019 Meeting

The Bulk Data Task Force (BDTF) is essentially the justice league of legislative data. 

The task force convenes each quarter, bringing together the people in charge of managing Legislative Branch data—like the House Clerk, Secretary of the Senate, GPO, and Library of Congress—as well as outside stakeholders. Together the group works to make legislative data freely accessible to all.

The task force convened last week at the Legislative Data and Transparency Conference.

Here are the highlights: Continue reading “Bulk Data Task Force Reports Major Strides at October 2019 Meeting”

Forecast for October 21, 2019


Elijah Cummings has died. He rightly has been lauded for his many achievements and common decency; we remember him as a champion for open and accountable government and his tireless efforts to build a more perfect union. He will lie in state in the rotunda on Thursday; his funeral is Friday. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


The House is in for the next 2 weeks, the Senate for the next 5.

• Hugh Halpern was nominated to be the new Director of the Government Publishing Office. He had served as Republican floor director and previously as staff director for the House Rules Committee. Mr. Halpern played a significant role in bringing transparency to the House Rules Committee and modernizing the House’s rules. I’ve had the pleasure of working with him over the years and found him smart, capable, engaged, curious, patient, and genuine.

• The hottest ticket in town last week was the 7th annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference. We will be covering it more fully in an upcoming article, but we’ve hit the highlights below. We particularly enjoyed the quarterly update from the Bulk Data Task Force. This amazing working group (that welcome engagement from all quarters) brings together experts from across the legislative branch to improve how Congress works, focusing on technology and transparency. Continue reading “Forecast for October 21, 2019”

Forecast for October 14, 2019

Welcome back. The next recess is Nov. 4 for the House and Nov. 25 for the Senate. Buckle up.

Approps count-down
. The CR ends the week before Thanksgiving—maybe there will be another CR to Christmas, or a full year CR, or a shutdown. I suspect House Approps Chair Nita Lowey, who announced she won’t run in the 117th after 31 years in Congress, has had enough of this stuff. Are you ready to rumble? Expect an approps succession fight, with Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Marcy Kaptur jostling for the top spot—Lowey beat Kaptur in 2012—and everyone else  looking to move up.

The legislative and technology event of the season has arrived! This newsletter isn’t exactly a gold-embossed invitation, but you really should come to (or watch online) the 7th Annual House Legislative Data and Transparency Conference, set for this Thursday. RSVP here. We’ve been to ‘em all. Come say hi and get a First Branch Forecast sticker or magnet.

We’re still stuck on the FY 2019 approps bills, especially as that fiscal year just ended. We’ve kept track of whether the Leg Branch Approps bill (and accompanying House and Senate report language) have been implemented. Come on, click here, you know you want to see our nifty checklist of what’s done, what’s half-done, and what’s late. Here’s a summary of what we found.

leg-branch-checklist Continue reading “Forecast for October 14, 2019”

The Leg Branch Approps To-Do List for FY 2019

Congress requested a number of improvements to how the legislative branch functions as part of the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (and, in one instance, for FY 2018). What happened?

We reviewed the status of requested leg branch projects in the following chart and then provided an issue-by-issue analysis. We expect to have more status updates at this week’s upcoming Legislative Data and Transparency Conference.

Leg Branch Checklist Continue reading “The Leg Branch Approps To-Do List for FY 2019”

Forecast for October 7, 2019


The impeachment inquiry is underway — so why don’t members have a sufficiently-cleared staff to help them do their jobs? (They should.) By the way, this Ryan Grimm story on why the Democratic caucus moved towards impeachment is the best one out there.

RSVP for the Legislative Data & Transparency Conference, set for Thursday October 17th. Hosted by House Admin in the CVC, it brings members and staff from the House, Senate, support offices, and support agencies (and us) to talk about improving congressional tech and transparency. RSVP here. Wanna give a lightning talk?

Speaking of tech, join us on Tuesday for “Time for an Upgrade: Getting Better Tech for Congress” at 12 in 2075 Rayburn, hosted by LegBranch.org.

Continue reading “Forecast for October 7, 2019”

Sens. Peters and Portman Intro Transparency Bill for Agency Spending Plans

On Friday, Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced legislation to make it much easier to find how federal agencies propose to spend federal funds. The Congressional Budget Justification Transparency Act of 2019 (S. 2560) requires all agencies to publish a plain language explanation of their funding proposal — known as a Congressional Justification (CJ) —  online within two weeks of submitting them to Congress. Users must be able to download reports individually and in bulk, and agencies are encouraged to publish the CJs as structured data. 

Currently, getting your hands on these federal spending roadmaps can be a challenge. This adds yet another hurdle to tracking federal spending, an already tricky topic. Trust us, we’ve tried. Here’s the problem: Continue reading “Sens. Peters and Portman Intro Transparency Bill for Agency Spending Plans”

7th Annual House Legislative Data and Transparency Conference Announced

The seventh annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference has been announced!

On Thursday October 17th, agencies, data users, and transparency advocates will come together to discuss Congress’s efforts to make legislative information available to the public as data.

The conference covers what’s working well, what’s not, and provides an opportunity to hear from and meet with the people working to make things better.

You can RSVP for the Thursday, October 17, 2019 event here.

You can find recaps of prior conferences and links to video from the conferences here: