Every day entries to the Congressional record are added. While this content is legally mandated to be available to the public, most of its history is from well before the digital age. However, starting with the 104th Congress (1995-1996), these records are readily available online through Federal Digital Systems (fdsys) and Congress.gov.
Though it is possible to search through the record by keyword and various filters, collecting and understanding content at a larger scale requires some additional labor. Luckily, the Sunlight Foundation has as its goal to provide the world with some extremely useful other tools to make our government more transparent. One such tool is the foundation’s API, Capitol Words, which I have used in the two projects here.
To make the best use of the amazing APIs from the Sunlight Foundation, you’ll need a few preliminary tools/skills.
- An API key (you can request one here
- Python (and/or curL and/or Java Script) language skills
- Some understanding of the command line
- GitHub / Git Shell