Another Way to Look at the Congressional Record

I’m going to start this Tech Tips post by assuming that, unlike me, most people don’t love reading the Congressional Record. But newsrooms often like to know what’s in it, and when their elected representatives said it.

The tried and true route for answering such questions is to search via Thomas, the Library of Congress legislative site, or you might try C-SPAN’s Congressional Chronicle. Now there’s another way to see what members of the House and Senate say in the Record from the folks at the Sunlight Foundation, called Capitol Words.
Capitol Words is a search engine for the Record with some nice extras built-in. For example, you can find out the popularity of particular words or phrases over time, or popular words or phrases. The site allows you to narrow the focus to lawmakers from a particular state or party, too. For example, here’s what a comparison of the terms “bailout” and “big banks” looks like.
The site also allows you to browse by date, where you can see popular words and phrases month by month or even day by day. Individual terms have their own pages, so you can see the history and popularity of words such as “preexisting“, for example.
Sunlight gets the text of the Record straight from the Government Printing Office, so it’s the official version. Capitol Words just applies a bit of structure to it by attempting to definitively identify every speaker and index every word. See what you can learn about your state’s delegation by exploring it.
And by the way, if you haven’t checked out that C-SPAN site I referenced, it’s a great way to isolate video or find recordings of a particular speaker – not just in Congress but of any C-SPAN appearance.
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