A fantastic move.” “A big deal for transparency.” These are just some of the descriptions of the letter released today by Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor regarding the development of new electronic data standards for the House of Representatives.

In the letter, Boehner and Cantor call for “publicly releasing the House’s legislative data in machine-readable formats” like XML. This effort builds on the Pledge to America “to ensure transparency and accountability in Congress” and on the new rules adopted at the beginning of the 112th Congress.

John Wonderlich with Sunlight argues that better “[a]ccess to legislative data brings citizens closer to their representatives. When developers and programmers have better access to the data of Congress, they can better build the databases and tools that let the rest of us connect with the legislature.”

Here’s some of the coverage of the Boehner/Cantor letter:

  • Politico Morning Tech: “The goal, the top GOP-ers write, is to transition ‘the House to more open data formats, such as XML.’ It’s born out of the party’s pledge to make the chamber more transparent, and their direction to the House Administration Committee to explore ways to achieve that aim.”
  • The Hill: “Cantor and Boehner note that the Rules of the House adopted on the opening day of this session of Congress directed the Committee on House Administration ‘to establish and maintain electronic data standards for the House and its committees.’ They ask the Clerk's office to help develop those standards with a goal of moving to open data formats like XML.”
  • Sunlight Foundation: “This an extremely important move. A joint letter from the Speaker and Majority Leader is a real commitment to data release, and means that the House is going to be adjusting how it shares legislative information online.”

The House Rules Committee – where bills are first posted to meet the three-day “read the bill” requirement – already makes legislative data available in XML. Stay tuned to Speaker.gov and MajorityLeader.gov in the weeks ahead as the new majority continues working to keep its Pledge to make the whole House more open, transparent, and accountable to the American people.