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Members of the United States Congress, 1789-Present, in YAML, as well as committees, presidents, and vice presidents.

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congress-legislators

Members of the United States Congress (1789-Present) and congressional committees (1973-Present) in YAML.

Using the data

This repository contains data about legislators:

  • legislators-current.yaml: Currently serving Members of Congress (as of last update).
  • legislators-historical.yaml: Historical Members of Congress (i.e. all Members of Congress except those in the current file).
  • legislators-social-media.yaml: Current social media accounts for Members of Congress. Official accounts only (no campaign or personal accounts).

And about committees:

  • committees-current.yaml: Current committees of the Congress, with subcommittees.
  • committee-membership-current.yaml: Current committee/subcommittee assignments as of the date of last update.
  • committees-historical.yaml: Current and historical committees of the Congress, with subcommittees, from the 93rd Congress (1973) and on.

This repository also contains a database of presidents and vice presidents in executive.yaml. Recall that vice presidents are also president of the Senate and cast tie-breaking votes.

The files are in YAML format. YAML is a serialization format similar in structure to JSON but typically written with one field per line. Like JSON, it allows for nested structure. Each level of nesting is indicated by indentation or a dash.

This database has been collected from a variety of sources:

The data is currently maintained both by hand and by some scripts in the scripts directory.

Running the scripts

You can just use the data directly without running any scripts. If you want to develop on and help maintain the data, our scripts are tested and developed on Python 3.3.

Build Status

Every script in scripts/ should be safely import-able without executing code, beyond imports themselves. We typically do this with a def run(): declaration after the imports, and putting this at the bottom of the script:

if __name__ == '__main__':
  run()

Every pull request will pass submitted scripts through an import, to catch exceptions, and through pyflakes, to catch unused imports or local vars.

Legislators File Structure and Overview

legislators-current.yaml and legislators-historical.yaml contain biographical information on all Members of Congress that have ever served in Congress, that is, since 1789, as well as cross-walks into other databases.

Each legislator record is grouped into four guaranteed parts: id's which relate the record to other databases, name information (first, last, etc.), biographical information (birthday, gender), and terms served in Congress. A typical record looks something like this:

- id:
    bioguide: R000570
    thomas: '01560'
    govtrack: 400351
    opensecrets: N00004357
    votesmart: 26344
    fec:
      - H8WI01024
    cspan: 57970
    wikipedia: Paul Ryan
    ballotpedia: Paul Ryan
    washington_post: gIQAUWiV9O
    maplight: 4442
    house_history: 20785
    icpsr: 29939
  name:
    first: Paul
    middle: D.
    last: Ryan
  bio:
    birthday: '1970-01-29'
    gender: M
  terms:
  ...
  - type: rep
    start: '2011-01-03'
    end: '2013-01-03'
  ...
  - type: rep
    start: '2013-01-03'
    end: '2015-01-03'
    state: WI
    party: Republican
    district: 1
    url: http://paulryan.house.gov
    address: 1233 Longworth HOB; Washington DC 20515-4901
    phone: 202-225-3031
    fax: 202-225-3393
    contact_form: http://www.house.gov/ryan/email.htm
    office: 1233 Longworth House Office Building

Terms correspond to elections and are listed in chronological order. If a legislator is currently serving, the current term information will always be the last one. To check if a legislator is currently serving, check that the end date on the last term is in the future.

The split between legislators-current.yaml and legislators-historical.yaml is somewhat arbitrary because these files may not be updated immediately when a legislator leaves office. If it matters to you, just load both files.

A separate file legislators-social-media.yaml stores social media account information. Its structure is similar but includes different fields.

Legislators Data Dictionary

The following fields are available in legislators-current.yaml and legislators-historical.yaml:

  • id

    • bioguide: The alphanumeric ID for this legislator in http://bioguide.congress.gov. Note that at one time some legislators (women who had changed their name when they got married) had two entries on the bioguide website. Only one bioguide ID is included here. This is the best field to use as a primary key.
    • thomas: The numeric ID for this legislator on http://thomas.gov and http://beta.congress.gov. The ID is stored as a string with leading zeros preserved.
    • lis: The alphanumeric ID for this legislator found in Senate roll call votes (http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/legislative/a_three_sections_with_teasers/votes.htm).
    • fec: A list of IDs for this legislator in Federal Election Commission data.
    • govtrack: The numeric ID for this legislator on GovTrack.us (stored as an integer).
    • opensecrets: The alphanumeric ID for this legislator on OpenSecrets.org.
    • votesmart: The numeric ID for this legislator on VoteSmart.org (stored as an integer).
    • icpsr: The numeric ID for this legislator in Keith Poole's VoteView.com website, originally based on an ID system by the Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research (stored as an integer).
    • cspan: The numeric ID for this legislator on C-SPAN's video website, e.g. http://www.c-spanvideo.org/person/1745 (stored as an integer).
    • wikipedia: The Wikipedia page name for the person (spaces are given as spaces, not underscores).
    • ballotpedia: The ballotpedia.org page name for the person (spaces are given as spaces, not underscores).
    • washington_post: the Washington Post topic name (e.g.: http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/[washington_post]_topic.html)
    • maplight : The maplight.org internal ID for the person, used for campaign finance information.
    • house_history: The numeric ID for this legislator on http://history.house.gov/People/Search/. The ID is present only for members who have served in the U.S. House.
    • bioguide_previous: When bioguide.congress.gov mistakenly listed a legislator under multiple IDs, this field is a list of alternative IDs. (This often ocurred for women who changed their name.) The IDs in this list probably were removed from bioguide.congress.gov but might still be in use in the wild.
  • name

    • first: The legislator's first name. Sometimes a first initial and period (e.g. in W. Todd Akin), in which case it is suggested to not use the first name for display purposes.
    • middle: The legislator's middle name or middle initial (with period).
    • last: The legislator's last name. Many last names include non-ASCII characters. When building search systems, it is advised to index both the raw value as well as a value with extended characters replaced with their ASCII equivalents (in Python that's: u"".join(c for c in unicodedata.normalize('NFKD', lastname) if not unicodedata.combining(c))).
    • suffix: A suffix on the legislator's name, such as "Jr." or "III".
    • nickname: The legislator's nick name when used as a common alternative to his first name.
    • official_full: The full name of the legislator according to the House or Senate (usually first, middle initial, nickname, last, and suffix). Present for those serving on 2012-10-30 and later.
  • other_names, when present, lists other names the legislator has gone by officially. This is helpful in cases where a legislator's legal name has changed. These listings will only include the name attributes which differ from the current name, and a start or end date where applicable. Where multiple names exist, other names are listed chronologically by end date. An excerpted example:

    • id: bioguide: B001228 thomas: '01465' govtrack: 400039 opensecrets: N00007068 name: first: Mary middle: Whitaker last: Bono Mack other_names:
      • last: Bono end: '2007-12-17' ...
  • bio

    • birthday: The legislator's birthday, in YYYY-MM-DD format.
    • gender: The legislator's gender, either "M" or "F".
    • religion: The legislator's religion.
  • terms (one entry for each election)

    • type: The type of the term. Either "sen" for senators or "rep" for representatives and delegates to the House.
    • start: The date the term began (i.e. typically a swearing in), in YYYY-MM-DD format. In contemporary data (>1940), it may be Jan. 3 on odd-numbered years or later if Congress does not meet immediately.
    • end: The date the term ended (because the Congress ended, the legislator died or resigned, etc.). For Members of Congress that served their whole term, starting with the 112th Congress end dates follow the Constitutional end of a Congress, Jan. 3 on odd-numbered years (which is unfortunately the same date the next Congress begins), but prior to the 112th Congress end dates were set to the last date of adjournment of Congress. The end date is the last date on which the legislator served this term.
    • state: The two-letter, uppercase USPS abbreviation for the state that the legislator is serving from. See below.
    • district: For representatives, the district number they are serving from. At-large districts are district 0. In historical data, unknown district numbers are recorded as -1.
    • class: For senators, their election class (1, 2, or 3). Note that this is unrelated to seniority.
    • state_rank: For senators, whether they are the "junior" or "senior" senator (only valid if the term is current, otherwise the senator's rank at the time the term ended).
    • party: The political party of the legislator. If the legislator changed parties, it is typically the most recent party held during the term. This is typically "Democrat", "Independent", or "Republican". The party reflects the partisan caucuses in Congress, and it may differ from the party listed on the ballot during the legislator's election.
    • url: The official website URL of the legislator (only valid if the term is current).
    • address: The mailing address of the legislator's Washington, D.C. office (only valid if the term is current, otherwise the last known address).
    • phone: The phone number of the legislator's Washington, D.C. office (only valid if the term is current, otherwise the last known number).
    • fax: The fax number of the legislator's Washington, D.C. office (only valid if the term is current, otherwise the last known number).
    • contact_form: The website URL of the contact page on the legislator's official website (only valid if the term is current, otherwise the last known URL).
    • office: Similar to the address field, this is just the room and building number, suitable for display (only valid if the term is current, otherwise the last known office).
    • rss_url The URL to the official website's RSS feed (only valid if the term is current, otherwise the last known URL).

Leadership roles:

leadership_roles:
  - title: Minority Leader
    chamber: senate
    start: '2007-01-04'
    end: '2009-01-06'

For members with top formal positions of leadership in each party in each chamber, a leadership_roles field will include an array of start/end dates and titles documenting when they held this role.

Leadership terms are not identical to legislative terms, and so start and end dates will be different than legislative term dates. However, leaders do need to be re-elected each legislative term, so their leadership terms should all be subsets of their legislative terms.

Except where noted, fields are omitted when their value is empty or unknown. Any field may be unknown.

Notes: In most cases, a legislator has a single term on any given date. In some cases a legislator resigned from one chamber and was sworn in in the other chamber on the same day. Terms for senators list each six-year term, so the terms span three Congresses. For representatives and delegates, each two-year term is listed, each corresponding to a single Congress. But Puerto Rico's Resident Commissioner serves four-year terms, and so the Resident Commissioner will have a single term covering two Congresses (this has not been updated in historical data).

Historically, some states sending at-large representatives actually sent multiple at-large representatives. Thus, state and district may not be a unique key.

Social Media Data Dictionary

The social media file legislators-social-media.yaml stores current social media account information.

Each record has two sections: id and social. The id section identifies the legislator using bioguide, thomas, and govtrack IDs (where available). The social section has social media account identifiers:

  • twitter: The current official Twitter handle of the legislator.
  • youtube: The current official YouTube username of the legislator.
  • youtube_id: The current official YouTube channel ID of the legislator.
  • facebook: The username of the current official Facebook presence of the legislator.
  • facebook_id: The numeric ID of the current official Facebook presence of the legislator.

Several legislators do not have an assigned YouTube username. In these cases, only the youtube_id field is populated.

All values can be turned into URLs by preceding them with the domain name of the service in question (and in the case of YouTube channels, the path /channel):

  • http://twitter.com/[twitter]
  • http://youtube.com/user/[youtube]
  • http://youtube.com/channel/[youtube_id]
  • http://facebook.com/[facebook or facebook_id]

Legislators are only present when they have one or more social media accounts known. Fields are omitted when the account is unknown.

Committees Data Dictionary

The committees-current.yaml file lists all current House, Senate, and Joint committees of the United States Congress. It includes metadata and cross-walks into other databases of committee information. It is based on data scraped from House.gov and Senate.gov.

The committees-historical.yaml file is a possibly partial list of current and historical committees and subcommittees referred to in the unitedstates/congress project bill data, as scraped from THOMAS.gov. Only committees/subcommmittees that have had bills referred to them are included.

The basic structure of a committee entry looks like the following:

- type: house
  name: House Committee on Agriculture
  url: http://agriculture.house.gov/
  thomas_id: HSAG
  house_committee_id: AG
  subcommittees:
     (... subcommittee list ...)

The two files are structured each as a list of committees, each entry an associative array of key/value pairs of committee metadata.

The fields available in both files are as follows:

  • type: 'house', 'senate', or 'joint' indicating the type of commmittee
  • name: The current (or most recent) official name of the committee.
  • thomas_id: The four-letter code used for the committee on the THOMAS advanced search page.
  • senate_committee_id: For Senate and Joint committees, the four-letter code used on http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/committees/b_three_sections_with_teasers/membership.htm. Currently the same as the thomas_id.
  • house_committee_id: For House committees, the two-letter code used on http://clerk.house.gov/committee_info/index.aspx. Currently always the same as the last two letters of the thomas_id.
  • subcommittees: A list of subcommittees, with the following fields:
    • name: The name of the subcommittee, excluding "Subcommittee on" that appears at the start of most subcommittee names. Some subcommittee names begin with a lowercase "the" so bear that in mind during display.
    • thomas_id: The two-digit (zero-padded) code for the subcommittee as it appeared on THOMAS, and likely also the same code used on the House and Senate websites.

Additional fields are present on current committee entries (that is, in committees-current.yaml):

  • url: The current website URL of the committee.
  • address: The mailing address for the committee.
  • phone: The phone number of the committee.
  • rss_url: The URL for the committee's RSS feed.
  • minority_rss_url: The URL for the committee's minority party website's RSS feed.

Two additional fields are present on committees and subcommmittees in the committees-historical.yaml file:

  • congresses: A list of Congress numbers in which this committee appears on the THOMAS advanced search page. It is roughly an indication of the time period during which the committee was in use. However, if a committee was not referred any bills it may not appear on THOMAS's list and therefore would not appear here.
  • names: A list of past names for the committee. This is an associative array from a Congress number to the name of the committee. The name is that given on the THOMAS advanced search page for previous Congresses and does not always exactly match the official names of commmittees.

Committee Membership Data Dictionary

The committee-membership-current.yaml file contains current committee assignments, as of the date of the last update of this file. The file is structured as a mapping from committee IDs to a list of committee members. The basic structure looks like this:

HSAG:
- name: Frank D. Lucas
  party: majority
  rank: 1
  title: Chair
  bioguide: L000491
  thomas: '00711'
- name: Bob Goodlatte
  party: majority
  rank: 2
(...snip...)
HSAG03:
- name: Jean Schmidt
  party: majority
  rank: 1
  title: Chair

The committee IDs in this file are the thomas_id's from the committees-current.yaml file, or for subcommittees the concatentation of the thomas_id of the parent committee and the thomas_id of the subcommittee.

Each committee/subcommittee entry is a list containing the members of the committee. Each member has the following fields:

  • name: The name of the Member of Congress. This field is intended for debugging. Instead, use the id fields.
  • Some of the id fields used in the legislators YAML files, such as bioguide and thomas.
  • party: Either "majority" or "minority." Committee work is divided strictly by party.
  • rank: The apparent rank of the member on the committee, within his or her party. This is based on the order of names on the House/Senate committee membership pages. Rank 1 is always for the committee chair or ranking member (the most senior minority party member). The rank is essentially approximate, because the House/Senate pages don't necessarily make a committment that the order on the page precisely indicates actual rank (if such a concept even applies). But if you want to preserve the order as displayed by the House and Senate, you can use this attribute.
  • title: The title of the member on the committee, e.g. Chair, Ranking Member, or Ex Officio. This field is not normalized, however, so be prepared to accept any string.
  • chamber: For joint committees only, the chamber that the representative is serving in, either house or senate.

The Executive Branch

Because of their role in the legislative process, we also include a file executive.yaml which contains terms served by U.S. presidents (who signed legislation) and U.S. vice presidents (who are nominally the president of the Senate and occassionally cast tie-breaking votes there).

This file has a similar structure as the legislator files. The file contains a list, where each entry is a person. Each entry is a dict with id, name, bio, and terms fields.

The id, bio, and name fields are the same as those listed above. Except:

  • icpsr_prez: The numeric ICPSR identifier used in voteview.com historical roll call data when indicating the position of the President on a roll call vote. If the person also served in Congress, he or she will also have a regular icpsr ID with a different value.

Each term has the following fields:

  • type: either "prez" (a presidential term) or "viceprez" (a vice presidential term).
  • start: The start date of the term. In modern times, typically January 20 following an election year.
  • end: The end date of the term. In modern times, typically January 20 following an election year.
  • party: The political party from which the person was elected.
  • how: How the term came to be, either "election" (the normal case), "succession" (presidential succession), or "appointment" (the appointment by the president of a new vice president).

Presidents and vice presidents that previously served in Congress will also be listed in one of the legislator files, but their Congressional terms will only appear in the legislator files and their executive-branch terms will only appear in executive.yaml.

State Abbreviations

Although you can find the USPS abbreviations for the 50 states anywhere, non-voting delegates from territories --- including historical territories that no longer exist --- are included in this database. Here is a complete list of abbreviations:

The 50 States:

AK Alaska
AL Alabama
AR Arkansas
AZ Arizona
CA California
CO Colorado
CT Connecticut
DE Delaware
FL Florida
GA Georgia
HI Hawaii
IA Iowa
ID Idaho
IL Illinois
IN Indiana
KS Kansas
KY Kentucky
LA Louisiana
MA Massachusetts
MD Maryland
ME Maine
MI Michigan
MN Minnesota
MO Missouri
MS Mississippi
MT Montana
NC North Carolina
ND North Dakota
NE Nebraska
NH New Hampshire
NJ New Jersey
NM New Mexico
NV Nevada
NY New York
OH Ohio
OK Oklahoma
OR Oregon
PA Pennsylvania
RI Rhode Island
SC South Carolina
SD South Dakota
TN Tennessee
TX Texas
UT Utah
VA Virginia
VT Vermont
WA Washington
WI Wisconsin
WV West Virginia
WY Wyoming

Current Territories:

Legislators serving in the House from these territories are called delegates, except for the so-called "Resident Commissioner" from Puerto Rico.

AS American Samoa
DC District of Columbia
GU Guam
MP Northern Mariana Islands
PR Puerto Rico
VI Virgin Islands

Historical Territories:

These territories no longer exist.

DK Dakota Territory
OL Territory of Orleans
PI Philippines Territory/Commonwealth

Running Scripts

(Recommended) First, create a virtualenv in the scripts directory:

cd scripts
virtualenv virt
source virt/bin/activate

Install the requirements:

pip install -r requirements.txt

Try updating the House members contact information (mailing address, etc.):

python house_contacts.py

Check whether and how the data has changed:

git diff ../*.yaml

We run the following scripts periodically to scrape for new information and keep the data files up to date. The scripts do not take any command-line arguments.

  • house_contacts.py: Updates House members' contact information (address, office, and phone fields on their current term, and their official_full name field)
  • house_websites.py: Updates House members' current website URLs.
  • senate_contacts.py: Updates senator information (party, class, state_rank, address, office, phone, and contact_form fields on their current term, and their official_full name, bioguide ID, and lis ID fields)
  • committee_membership.py: Updates committees-current.yaml (name, address, and phone fields for House committees; name and url fields for Senate committees; creates new subcommittees when found with name and thomas_id fields) and writes out a whole new committee-membership-current.yaml file by scraping the House and Senate websites.
  • historical_committees.py: Updates committees-historical.yaml based on the committees listed on THOMAS.gov, which are committees to which bills have been referred since the 103rd Congress (1973).
  • social_media.py: Generates leads for Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook accounts for members of Congress by scraping their official websites. Uses a blacklist CSV and a whitelist CSV to manage false positives and negatives.
  • influence_ids.py: Grabs updated FEC and OpenSecrets IDs from the Influence Explorer API. Will only work for members with a Bioguide ID.

The following script takes one required command line argument

  • icpsr_ids.py: Updates ICPSR ID's for all members of the House and Senate in a given congress, based on roll call vote data files stored by Voteview.com. The script takes one command line argument: --congress=congress_number where congress_number is the number of the congress to be updated. As of July, 2013, the permanent URL for future roll call data is unclear, and as such, the script may need to be modified when it is run for the 114th congress.

The following script may be run to create alternatly formatted data files. It takes no command-line arguments.

  • alternate_bulk_formats.py creates four files (two each for current and historical legislators) in json and csv formats. The csv files do not include all fields from the legislator yaml files, and include data from the social media yaml. All four files are stored in the ~/alternate_formats directory.

Other Scripts

The ballotpedia, maplight, and washington_post fields have been created using code from James Michael DuPont, using the code in git@github.com:h4ck3rm1k3/rootstrikers-wikipedia.git in the branch ballotpedia.

Related libraries

  • Karl Nicholas made a set of Java classes to easily filter the data.

Who's Using This Data

Ongoing projects making use of this data:

Stories written with this data:

Other projects:

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.

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