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”

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”

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”

Best Wishes for the Constitution Annotated on the Constitution’s 232rd Birthday

232 years ago today, 38 delegates came together to sign the U.S. Constitution. While there’s a lot of fanfare around the founding document, there’s not much noise about its lesser-known, handy companion, the Constitution Annotated (CONAN). Fortunately, Sens. Portman and King released a letter last week making some noise, calling for CONAN to be available online in an accessible format for everyone to us. Today it appears the Library of Congress has listened. (See their blogpost making the announcement and detailing the new website).

CONAN is a legal treatise prepared by the Library of Congress’s Congressional Research Service and published by the Government Publishing Office (GPO). The document is a non-partisan and comprehensive analysis of how the Supreme Court has interpreted the U.S. Constitution.

For a decade, we’ve been asking the Library of Congress and GPO to publish CONAN online in an accessible and user-friendly format. Congress shared our sentiments in 2010 when lawmakers authorized the Library to improve public access — “to update the online edition as frequently as possible, and to create new and improved functions on the CONAN site.” Lawmakers also noted “Congress and the public should find this site accessible and user friendly.”  Continue reading “Best Wishes for the Constitution Annotated on the Constitution’s 232rd Birthday”

How Senate Committees Get Their Money


How do Senate committees get their funding and how has funding changed over the last 25 years? We crunched the numbers for you and here are the highlights:

  • Senate Committee spending is at an 18 year low
  • It’s good to be an appropriator; the committee gets the lion’s share of the funding and doesn’t have to beg for money
  • While Senate Committees aren’t exactly rolling in dough, they’re in much better shape than House committees, which are on a starvation diet

Continue reading “How Senate Committees Get Their Money”

How Should the New OTA Decide What To Study?

The likelihood of Congress reinstating a science and technology assessment office is at an all time high, but should such an agency be reconstituted, how should it decide what issues to address?

DCF 1.0
Source: Flickr

Congress’s other legislative support agencies — the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service, and the Congressional Budget Office — use various mechanisms to decide where to devote analytic resources. The GAO, for example, prioritizes congressional mandates, then senior leader and committee requests, and then individual member requests, with the practical effect that individual member requests are not usually considered. CRS, by contrast, leaves significant discretion to its analysts concerning which general distribution reports to create, although it does look at frequent requests from members of Congress. (CRS memos, of course, are written at the request of individual members.) Continue reading “How Should the New OTA Decide What To Study?”

USASpending Publishes (Some) Budget Requests In A Central Location


Every year federal agencies explain to Congress their requests for funding in a document known as a Congressional Budget Justification (CBJ). Unlike other budget documents, these requests are written to be read and understood by most people. 

Hundreds of agencies and sub-agencies submit these requests and OMB requires executive branch agencies to publish their CBJs online, but there hasn’t been a ‘one-stop-shop’ government database that aggregates all the requests in one place…until now (sort of).

Continue reading “USASpending Publishes (Some) Budget Requests In A Central Location”