Congress’ Printing and Library Committees Get Ready To Work

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Two of the world’s shortest congressional business meetings took place today between 11:37 and 11:41am.

The Joint Committee on the Library, which oversees the Library of Congress, was gavelled into order at 11:37, and in the ensuing two action-packed minutes, Senator Chuck Schumer was unanimously elected as the committee’s chair, and Rep. Gregg Harper was elected vice-chair. The Committee then adopted its rules from the 111th Congress for the 112th Congress and adjourned at 11:39.

Immediately thereafter, the Joint Committee on Printing, which oversees the Government Printing Office and public printing generally, came into order at 11:39. At that time, Rep. Gregg Harper was duly elected as committee chair, and Senator Chuck Schumer was elected vice-chair. After adopting the Committee’s rules from the 111th Congress as its own, and a short statement from the new chair, the JCP adjourned at 11:41.

Both committees have important tasks to take up during the 112th Congress. They collectively share responsibility (along with the Committee on House Administration and the Senate Rules Committee) for how congressional information is made available to the public. As a starting point, we hope these two committees will update their websites that have fallen into disuse.

We hope that they will work diligently to make public information available online, in real time, and in machine readable formats. Several years ago, we released a report with recommendations on this point, and there’s still a lot to do. I testified earlier this year on allowing bulk access to legislative data, and I hope this issue will be addressed in the near future.

The JCL will have particular involvement with the selection of the new director for the Congressional Research Service. As this panel discussion hosted by the Advisory Committee on Transparency identified, there is much to do to bring CRS into the 21st century, including making CRS reports publicly available.

The JCP will likely spend much of its time this year identifying ways to operate more effectively and efficiently. We hope that the effort involves releasing public documents online, in digital formats that can be easily manipulated by computers. And, of course, we’re hoping for action on the Constitution Annotated as well.

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