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Public domain data collectors for the work of Congress, including legislation, amendments, and votes.

Project description

## unitedstates/congress

Public domain code that collects data about the bills, amendments, roll call votes, and other core data about the U.S. Congress.


  • A data importing script for the [official bulk bill status data]( from Congress, the official source of information on the life and times of legislation.

  • Scrapers for House and Senate roll call votes.

  • A scraper for GPO FDSys, the official repository for most legislative documents.

  • A defunct THOMAS scraper for presidential nominations in Congress.

Read about the contents and schema in the [documentation]( in the github project wiki.

For background on how this repository came to be, see [Eric’s blog post](

### Setting Up

This project is tested using Python 2.7.

System dependencies

On Ubuntu, you’ll need wget, pip, and some support packages:

`bash sudo apt-get install git python-dev libxml2-dev libxslt1-dev libz-dev python-pip `

On OS X, you’ll need developer tools installed ([XCode](, and wget.

`bash brew install wget `

Python dependencies

It’s recommended you use a virtualenv (virtual environment) for development. The easiest way is install virtualenv and virtualenvwrapper, using sudo if necessary:

`bash sudo pip install virtualenv sudo pip install virtualenvwrapper `

Create a virtualenv for this project:

`bash mkvirtualenv congress `

And activate it before any development session using:

`bash workon congress `

Finally, with your virtual environment activated, install Python packages:

`bash pip install -r requirements.txt `

### Collecting the data

The general form to start the scraping process is:

./run <data-type> [–force] [other options]

where data-type is one of:

To scrape bills, resolutions, and amendments from THOMAS, run:

`bash ./run fdsys --collections=BILLSTATUS ./run bills `

The bills script will output bulk data into a top-level data directory, then organized by Congress number, bill type, and bill number. Two data output files will be generated for each bill: a JSON version (data.json) and an XML version (data.xml).

### Common options

Debugging messages are hidden by default. To include them, run with –log=info or –debug. To hide even warnings, run with –log=error.

To get emailed with errors, copy config.yml.example to config.yml and fill in the SMTP options. The script will automatically use the details when a parsing or execution error occurs.

The –force flag applies to all data types and supresses use of a cache for network-retreived resources.

### Data Output

The script will cache downloaded pages in a top-level cache directory, and output bulk data in a top-level data directory.

Two bulk data output files will be generated for each object: a JSON version (data.json) and an XML version (data.xml). The XML version attempts to maintain backwards compatibility with the XML bulk data that []( has provided for years. Add the –govtrack flag to get fully backward-compatible output using GovTrack IDs (otherwise the source IDs used for legislators is used).

See the [project wiki]( for documentation on the output format.

### Contributing

Pull requests with patches are awesome. Unit tests are strongly encouraged ([example tests](

The best way to file a bug is to [open a ticket](

### Running tests

To run this project’s unit tests:

`bash ./test/run `

### Who’s Using This Data

The [Sunlight Foundation]( and []( are the two principal maintainers of this project.

Both Sunlight and GovTrack operate APIs where you can get much of this data delivered over HTTP:

## Public domain

This project is [dedicated to the public domain](LICENSE). As spelled out in [CONTRIBUTING](

> The project is in the public domain within the United States, and copyright and related rights in the work worldwide are waived through the [CC0 1.0 Universal public domain dedication](

> All contributions to this project will be released under the CC0 dedication. By submitting a pull request, you are agreeing to comply with this waiver of copyright interest.

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