Congressional Bills Project

Codebooks and crosswalks


The Variables Codebook

Not all variables are available for all years. In particular, member biographical data is generally limited after 1989, the extent of years available through the Database of Congressional Historical Statistics (see below). Other potential sources of biographical information that can be merged are Voteview (using the MemberID variable) and databases related to the github/unitedstates/congress repository such as the ProPublica Congress API (using the bioguide variable. The latter resource can also be used to retrieve a wealth of information about individual bills, such as committees of referral, and more information about their progress than the CPB provides.

Committee names can be found here.

The Database of Congressional Historical Statistics provides the values for most of the biographical variables (such as party or state code)

Important Bills [updated 4/20/2017]. This filter is based on the presence of certain words in a title (below) and can be used to exclude bills that are arguably of 'minor' importance (minor=0). For example, bills to name buildings are fairly common and a large proportion of the bills that become law. We do a good job of excluding these bills. Other bills transfer small plots of land (or buildings from the federal to local governments. We try to identify these with a couple of terms (land exchange and exchange of land) but we also know that there are quite a few bills that ''transfer'' land that we haven't included because the transfer key term ends up including too many false positives. Users of this variable will probably want to use the private bill filter as well (or major topic = 99).

=IF(OR(ISNUMBER(SEARCH({"medal","coin","name","technical correction","stamp","land exchange","suspend temporarily","extend the temporary","boundar","exchange of land"},AA2))),1,0) We then reviewed all bills with "designate" in their titles and tagged those that (in our judgement) named or renamed buildings, recreational areas etc. This will not be a perfect indicator either because sometimes the bill will say (e.g.) "and for other purposes."

The Topics Codebook

We label bill titles using the topic coding system of the Policy Agendas Project/ Comparative Agendas Project. In 2014 the PAP system was modified and the codebook updated and we have altered the major and minor topic labels of congressional bills to reflect these changes. The earlier bills codes (oldMajor, oldMinor) are included through the 112th Congress.

The topic coding system is mutually exclusive (only one topic for each bill title). Thus researchers should not assume that every bill relating to 'air pollution' (for example) will be coded as '705.' In addition, topics are based on titles 'as introduced,' and bill titles (and substance) can change (we use short descriptions for the pre-1973 period).

We strive for 90% interannotator reliability at the major topic level, and 80% at the subtopic level during the training process. Annotators train for an academic quarter and then we assign bills to individual annotators.


Committee Membership. The Policy Agendas committee codes we use are different from those used in the Committee membership database maintained by Professor Charles Stewart at MIT. This Committees Crosswalk facilitates efforts to integrate information from the two datasets.

ICPSR - NOMINATE crosswalk. The ICPSR numbers used in some other datasets are notoriously confusing. Two members may have the same ICPSR number, and the same member may have been assigned different numbers in different Congresses. Nevertheless, users may still want to integrate the valuable data contained in those datasets. This Member ID crosswalk can be used to associate old ICPSR numbers with the one used in the bills project - the revised member IDs developed by Keith Poole and Howard Rosenthal as part of the NOMINATE project.














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