GovTrack – Tracking The Cutting And Pasting In DC’s Docs

Trying to follow the history of legislation in Congress?

The website ~ GovTrack ~ now provides a way to track the text of Congressional legislation when that language has been cut and pasted from another piece of legislation.  The language may have been enacted but not under the bill number that introduced it.

All too often Congress cuts bills apart and pastes them back together—sometimes into an “omnibus.”  The bills that finally get a vote are an amalgam of provisions from other bills that either can’t or won’t get a standalone vote themselves. The most important legislation is crafted this way.

The site will even flag a bill when some of its provisions have been incorporated into another bill that was enacted.  For enacted bills, the searcher will be able to note which other bills had “text in common” with the enacted legislation.

The full blog post – “How a Complex Network of Bills Becomes a Law: Introducing a New Data Analysis of Text Incorporation!

Below is a chart from GovTrack showing how common this situation has become in recent legislative sessions.

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