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In ea5ba20, I revised the votes task to accept just a congress number and it would come up with the session numbers. But this led to unneecssary warnings about not being able to get votes for a session that hasn't yet started.

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This is a community-run project to develop Python tools to collect data about the bills, amendments, roll call votes, and other core data about the U.S. Congress into simple-to-use structured data files.

The tools include:

  • Downloading the official bulk bill status data from Congress, the official source of information on the life and times of legislation, and converting the data to an easier-to-use format.

  • Scrapers for House and Senate roll call votes.

  • A document fetcher for, which holds bill text, bill status, and other official documents, and which downloads only newly updated files.

  • A defunct THOMAS scraper for presidential nominations in Congress.

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

This repository was originally developed by and the Sunlight Foundation in 2013 (see Eric's blog post) and is currently maintained by and other contributors. For more information about data in Congress, see the Congressional Data Coalition.

Setting Up

This project is tested using Python 3.

System dependencies

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

sudo apt-get install git python3-dev libxml2-dev libxslt1-dev libz-dev python3-pip python3-venv

On OS X, you'll need developer tools installed (XCode), and wget.

brew install wget

Python dependencies

It's recommended you use a virtualenv (virtual environment) for development. Create a virtualenv for this project:

python3 -m venv env
source env/bin/activate

Finally, with your virtual environment activated, install the package, which will automatically pull in the Python dependencies:

pip install .

Collecting the data

The general form to start the scraping process is:

usc-run <data-type> [--force] [other options]

where data-type is one of:

To get data for bills, resolutions, and amendments, run:

usc-run govinfo --bulkdata=BILLSTATUS
usc-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.


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:


Public domain

This project is dedicated to the public domain. 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.

Build Status


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







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