About committee.report

Committee reports provide useful explanations of actions taken by congressional committees. They explain complicated legislation, describe what happened at a hearing, and provide a history of an important matter before Congress. Text and PDF versions of nearly twenty thousand reports are published by the Government Publishing Office, going back to 1995, and there’s an ongoing GPO-Library of Congress effort to digitize committee reports and documents going back to 1817.

Complete, high quality electronic versions of committee reports and documents are available only for the last 30 years and often are available online only as PDF and text files. While PDFs make an electronic document look like a paper document, they are a poor fit for many other purposes. You can’t easily read a PDF on your phone (it’s too small), they don’t work on e-readers (which need well-formatted text), and you can’t easily enhance the file (to add hyperlinks or copy and paste the information). Similarly, text files do not contain any metadata and have hard line breaks, which can make them difficult for a computer to organize and for a human to read.

This is why Demand Progress Education Fund contracted with Dave Zvenyach to build a website that automatically transforms committee reports published in PDF format into something that will work on your e-reader (such as a Kindle). Now you can take congressional reports with you on whatever device you want to use.

It is our expectation that Congress will move from publishing its documents electronically first as a PDF to publishing it in a more flexible format, such as structured data, which can then be transformed into whatever format you prefer to use. We are excited for that day to arrive. But we are not yet there.

Even when congressional documents are all published in a structured data format, what happens to the legacy reports that only exist in complete form as a PDF or an unstructured text file? Committee.report infers the appropriate structure and metadata for these historical reports, which means we can transform them into whatever formats people choose to use now. We are building backward compatibility for our modern age.

The code for the website is open source and can be found here. You are free to use it as there is no copyright.

It is our hope that this tool will also prove helpful to everyone right now, and to GPO and the Library of Congress as they consider the issues of backward compatibility.

If you wish to support the Committee.Report website and congressional tools like it, please make a charitable donation to the Demand Progress Education Fund.