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Getting Ready for the New Congress

January 2, 2011 - by Donny Shaw

We’re now just two days away from the beginning of the 112th Congress and the new Republican House majority. While the Republicans have already announced some details about their first few actions, full legislative information for the new session is not yet available. On Wednesday morning we’ll be clearing our database of bills information from the 111th Congress to make way for the new data, but, like in 2009, some of the first legislative actions are going to happen without any opportunity for the public or most members of Congress to review the actual documents or submit feedback.

Because Congress doesn’t make its legislative data fully open to the public, OpenCongress obtains bill information approximately 12 hours after it’s posted on the official government website, Thomas. In the just-convened 112th U.S. Congress, then, bills introduced on January 5th will be displayed here on OpenCongress by January 6th at the latest. We continually seek to improve this technical process and encourage Congress to comply with the Principles of Open Government Data.

Of all the early bills that won’t be getting full public vetting, the only really substantial one is the Republicans’ package of changes to the House operating procedures. As always, this “rules package” will be assigned the number H.Res.5. Thankfully, the Republican leadership has already released the full legislative text and a section-by-section summary of what’s in it, but it won’t be available for review on Thomas or any of the government transparency sites that use Thomas for data until after it has been voted on.

We’ll be covering the rule package and the other first bills on this blog over the next few days, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, you might want to take this last chance to review hot bills from the 111th Congress, votes and, of course, the money trail behind legislative issues and campaign funds.

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