"Nota Bene" means "note this well" or "take particular notice." We at the O'Quinn Law Library will be posting tips on legal research techniques and resources, developments in the world of legal information, happenings at the Law Library, and legal news reports that deserve your particular attention. We look forward to sharing our thoughts and findings and to hearing from you.

N.B: Make a note to visit "Nota Bene" regularly.

-Spencer L. Simons, former Director, O'Quinn Law Library and Associate Professor of Law



Friday, February 28, 2014

Congress.gov Adds New Features


As we noted back in November, the popular legislative website THOMAS.gov is now redirecting its users to the Congress.gov platform. More recently, Congress.gov introduced Advanced Search and Browse features to its database, and also incorporated the Appropriations table from THOMAS.

The Advanced Search feature allows users to search in 21 different data fields, including Bill Text, Bill Summary, Committee, Sponsor, Cosponsor, Policy Area, Bill Official Title, and Bill Popular Title. You may search all legislation going back to the 93rd Congress (1973-1974), or limit your search to current legislation. Multiple data fields may be used in a single search. To add or remove a data field, you simply click on the plus or minus icon. You then specify whether you want to search for documents that contain or do not contain your search terms. This is a useful feature that allows you to increase the accuracy of your search. For example, if you wanted to search for all current bills in the Senate Armed Services Committee not related to Afghanistan, you might select “Armed Services” under the “Committee – Senate” field, and under the field “Title – All (Bills)” search for documents that do not contain the term “Afghanistan.” 

The Browse feature is similar to that of THOMAS, but the browsing categories have been rearranged under slightly different headings. For example, vetoed bills are now found under a separate heading from bills, resolutions, and amendments. There are also several categories from THOMAS that have either been dropped or are not yet available. As of this posting, Congress.gov does not allow browsing by bill number, popular and short titles, sponsor summaries, or CBO cost estimates.   

The Appropriations tables can be found by clicking on “Appropriations” on the home page under “Bill Searches and Lists.” These tables list appropriations resolutions by fiscal year, with links to full text and histories of the resolutions and to roll call vote results. However, Congress.gov currently only includes tables going back to 2011, while those on THOMAS go back to 1998.

 Congress.gov currently does not include data sets for nominations, treaties, or Senate Executive communications, although the About page states that they will be added over the course of this year. These data sets are still available on THOMAS. (The original THOMAS site can be accessed here until late 2014.) You can read more about Advanced Search and Browse, as well as other new developments, on the Enhancements page.

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