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Campus notebook: Digitizing Congress, a flu shot shortage and spotting an owl

Plus fall treats and process for reviewing franked mail is entering the 21st century

 An owl peered into Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office in the Hart Building on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
 An owl peered into Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s office in the Hart Building on Wednesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

There was good news this week for serious Congress nerds everywhere, especially those without access to a massive academic library.

The Government Publishing Office and the Law Library of Congress announced a plan Tuesday to digitize the entirety of the Congressional serial set — bound volumes of legislative reports and related documents dating all the way back to 1817.

Among the highlights? Congressional records relating to the acquisition of Alaska from Russia by the United States in 1867, criticized at the time of the negotiations as “Seward’s Folly.”

There are so many records to digitize and process that the Law Library and the GPO say the whole effort could take a decade to complete.

“Through this digitization, members of the public will be able to digitally access comprehensive and detailed information on a wide range of subjects useful for genealogical and biographical research. Of course print versions of these historic publications are available in Federal Depository Libraries across the country,” John Crawford, acting deputy director of GPO, said in a statement.

If confirmed by the Senate, one of the foremost congressional nerds anywhere will get the chance to oversee the effort. President Donald Trump recently announced the nomination of Hugh Halpern, who was the longtime Republican staff director at the House Rules Committee, to lead the publishing office.

Even with the House going out of session early due to the funeral proceedings for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., there was plenty to fill the Campus Notebook:

Flu shot shortage

The office of the attending physician has regularly provided free flu vaccines to congressional staffers, journalists and basically anyone with a congressional ID.

This year, there has been a shortage of the vaccines, but relief may be on the way. A notice posted this week on the door of the Senate medical clinics said that a new supply of shots should be available on the Capitol campus during the first week of November.

Nats treats, and a giant pumpkin

 The staff of Senate food service provider Restaurant Associates has been quite busy with their seasonally appropriate treats and promotions.

Ahead of the arrival of the World Series in the nation’s capital for the first time since 1933, the Dirksen Cafeteria featured sugar cookies and a variety of cupcakes featuring the “Curly W” of the Washington Nationals.

With Halloween just ahead, Restaurant Associates also running a contest to guess the weight of a giant pumpkin. Prizes are promised for getting the closest to the actual weight. The contest ends on November 1.

The Dirksen cafeteria has been featuring cookies with the Nationals logo. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)
The Dirksen cafeteria has been featuring cookies with the Nationals logo. (Niels Lesniewski/CQ Roll Call)

Frankly, this is progress

 The House Administration Committee and the Franking Commission announced during the 7th annual Legislative Data and Transparency Conference that all franked mail will soon be published online.

Until this franking innovation goes live, curious minds will still have to head to the Legislative Resource Center and pay $0.10 a page to see what members are sending to constituents.

The congressional franking privilege dates back to 1775 and allows members of Congress to mail certain communications to constituents under their signature without postage. Congress reimburses the Postal Service in bulk for all the franked mail.

Spotted (owl)

An owl perched outside the Hart office of New Hampshire Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen caught the attention of a crowd Wednesday, including fellow senators like Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Jon Tester of Montana. The owl’s visit also made for some terrible puns.

Tester tweeted that he could not let Brown and Shaheen, “have owl the fun.”

“Looks like our new friend swooped in to haunt the legislative graveyard just in time for Halloween,” Brown said in a reply to Tester.

Katherine Tully-McManus contributed to this report.

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