Revealing Patterns of Legislation in Congress

Legislative Explorer

Overview

Legislative Explorer is an interactive data visualization that allows you to explore actual patterns of lawmaking in Congress over forty years. Schema collaborated with the Center for American Politics and Public Policy (CAPPP) at the University of Washington to realize the project. The visualization allows you to see the big picture of U.S. lawmaking by aggregating all bills and resolutions and following their progress from introduction to outcome. Additionally these bills and resolutions can be searched by and filtered according to topic, committee, chamber, party, and Congressional sponsor.

Legislative Explorer Process and Timeline
Data visualization of the process of lawmaking as a map
The data visualization displays all bills in Congress
Playback each Congress to see the bills move through Congress
Bills are introduced by sponsors and then move through the stages of the legislative process
Some bills land at the President's desk and are signed into law
Use the timeline to see bills activity for an entire Congress
Some bills land at the President's desk and are signed into law
Filtering bills by Education
Filtering bills by Health
Zoom in to see bills that become law
Filter bills to see a patterns of lawmaking
Congresses over time
Patterns of lawmaking over time
The distribution of bills over time
Filtering to only bills introduced by the House of Representatives
Filtering to only bills sponsored by the Republican Party
Timeline showing all legislation
Filtering to only bills sponsored by the Republican Party, shown faceted by legislative topics
Topics represented in a percentage view
Zooming into the absolute topics view
Timeline showing legislative topics
Filtering to Energy subtopics
Column graph view
Timeline showing legislative outcomes

Process

Legislative Explorer began by focusing on the steps of the legislative process. The process for how a bill becomes law may initially seem like a linear process, but in reality it is anything but. Bills travel back and forth between the chambers and committees before only a select few end up on the President’s desk. We worked with CAPPP to conceptualize how to represent the non-linearity of the process, creating interactive prototypes using actual data to test our hypotheses.

Outcome

Legislative Explorer demonstrates the benefits of data-driven discovery to advance the understanding of complex legislative processes. At its core, the visualization consists of a map of the two chambers of Congress, the House and Senate, as well as the White House. Each step of the process is labeled on the map. Bills are represented as particles, color-coded by party. They are introduced by sponsors on either edge of the view. You can play-back the entire duration of a Congress and see bills move through the system, or apply filters to view subsets of legislation. Zooming in on the map lets you see the bills in more detail or link to a single bill on congress.gov. We later extended the initial visualization with a timeline view that examines patterns of lawmaking over time using a time-series graph. View the visualization.

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