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You Can Now Download Information From Every Congressional Session Since 1973

ProPublica’s new bulk data set lets you download an entire legislative session at once.

Louise Matsakis

Louise Matsakis

Image: Shutterstock

Since 2009, developers have been able to use the ProPublica Congress API (first developed by The New York Times) to retrieve data about the thousands of bills introduced during every two-year session in the House of Representatives. Until now though, you had to download each piece of information separately, and you needed to know how to write API calls.

For example, if you wanted to discover who sponsored a bill and also how members of Congress voted on it, you would need to download those pieces of data individually, and know how to call for them in the software code.

That's no longer the case. Wednesday, ProPublica announced that you can now download all the information about all of the bills in each legislative session using its new bulk bill data set. You can get all of the data for free in the ProPublica data store. There's also a data dictionary that can be used to decipher the bills here, and you can download them in either JSON or XML formats.

Two times a day, ProPublica will generate a single zip file containing metadata for every bill introduced in the current congress. That way, if you're interested in learning about legislation currently being considered, you'll be able to get info about it quickly.

The tool also lets you download archived sessions—dating back to 1973. Want to know how the war on drugs progressed through the 1980s, and how each member of Congress voted on related legislation? No problem, just download the bulk data for the corresponding time period, and start poking around.

ProPublica hopes the new data will "be useful to researchers, journalists and any other citizen trying to better understand our country's legislature," Jeremy B. Merrill, a news apps developer at the organization, wrote in a blog post announcing the new tool.