“What would be the impact of bulk downloads of legislative data in XML on the timeliness and authoritativeness of congressional information?” the committee report said. “What would be the estimated timeline for the development of a system of authentication for bulk data downloads of legislation information in XML? What are the projected budgetary impacts ... [and] potential requirements for Congress to confirm or invalidate third party analyses? Are there other data models ... that can enhance congressional openness or transparency?”
For the people who wanted immediate action on bulk data access, the formation of a task force to study the issue meant indefinite delay or even death for the issue as it faded from memory.
“A tremendous blow to prospects for improving public access to legislative information” is how the Sunlight Foundation characterized committee report language at the time.
“I oppose the committee report language and support making all XML legislative information available online in bulk as soon as possible,” Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., co-chairman of the Congressional Transparency Caucus, said in a statement to CQ Roll Call. “This would improve transparency and accountability by providing citizens and watchdog groups the ability to analyze data in ways not currently possible.”
This is not likely to be the last expansion of congressional data to be made available in XML format in the 113th Congress. Earlier this week, the House Clerk announced that full sessions of House floor summaries would be made available for bulk download, too.
And Congress.gov, the Library of Congress’ legislative information repository that will soon replace Thomas, is being configured to one day support bulk data access, should the order be handed down, LOC Web Services Chief Jim Karamanis told CQ Roll Call in September.