June 26, 2022

Congressional Data, Redefined

The fundamental roles of Congress are to represent varied constituent interests across the nation and to legislate on their behalf. Congress, and especially the House of Representatives, has the potential to be a diverse market for ideas that reaps the benefits of the nation’s creativity and knowledge.  Although the institution has taken fundamental steps to adopt modern workflow practices, poor digital infrastructure and data practices thwart its transformative potential. 

Understanding the byzantine inner workings of Congress is tremendously challenging, which makes it difficult for the public to provide feedback to members as a normal part of the lawmaking process. Likewise, the many transactions and communication interactions in a typical workday present missed opportunities to capture data that can be used to both improve the practice of democracy and inform policy making. Constituent engagement should encompass more than just correspondence over mail or email and should be equal parts sharing data and collecting data.

The eventual data standards of Congress have huge implications. The institutional memory of U.S. democracy is mission-critical data and the digital architecture that will be built in the coming years is as important as any other critical infrastructure. In order to rebuild trust, fulfill its constitutional duties, and live up to its full potential as a representative body, Congress must modernize its data practices. 

This report builds on the Beeck Center’s Shape, Structure, Share roadmap, which provides a vision for how individuals and communities can participate in policymaking in support of a more modern and inclusive Congress.

Associated Projects

Contributing Authors

Jonathan Finch

Student Analyst

photo of Tilley Ta'Corian

Ta’Corian Tilley

Student Analyst