Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Full House, Senate in One Volume

Now for some heavy reading.

The Government Printing Office recently published a 10-pound, 2,236-page directory with thumbnail biographies of everyone who has ever served in the House or Senate. First published in 1859, the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress was last updated in 1989 and has gone through 16 editions.

The biographies begin with Fred George Aandahl, a former farmer and school superintendent from North Dakota who was elected to the House as a Republican in 1950 after serving five years as his state's governor. He left Congress in 1953 after failing in a bid for the Senate and died in 1966 at age 68. At the other end is Republican John Matthew Zwach, a Minnesota schoolteacher and farmer who served in the House from 1967 to 1975. He died in 1990 at 83.

The directory also lists the Cabinet secretaries in every presidential administration from George Washington through the first term of George W. Bush.

The directory is available in hard copy for $99 at the GPO bookstore ( ). A free online version, with PDF files, is available at . You can also search for biographies of specific members at .

Web Site Lists Program Ratings

It is a report card for government, online.

The Office of Management and Budget has started up a Web site that allows taxpayers to read assessments of how well federal programs work. The site, , is an outgrowth of President Bush's Program Assessment Rating Tool, or PART, a four-year initiative in which the administration has reviewed hundreds of programs.

Of nearly 800 programs studied, 44 percent were found to be moderately effective or effective; 4 percent were ineffective; 28 percent were adequate; and 24 had not shown enough results to draw a rating.

Among "ineffective" programs were an EPA grant program to help states enforce pesticide laws and an AmeriCorps program in which 18- to 24-year-olds live in a community for 10 months while working on local improvement efforts. "Effective" programs included The National Center for Education Statistics, which collects and analyzes education data in the United States, and the Coast Guard's domestic icebreaking program, which maintains clear shipping channels on national lakes, rivers and harbors during the winter.

The ratings are one factor the White House considers in deciding how much funding to seek for programs -- or whether to pull the plug.

-- Christopher Lee

© 2006 The Washington Post Company