Many members of The American Legion family contact the Legion’s Washington, D.C., office asking a variety of questions regarding Congress and the legislative process – or what actions the Legion is taking on such matters. These requests run the gamut of inquiries, including:
“Who introduced the flag protection constitutional amendment in the Senate?” “Has the bill raising the COLA for veterans’ compensation been passed?” “How did my member of Congress vote on the VA appropriations bill?” “Did the President sign the bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security?” “What is the public law number of new VA benefits bill?” “Representative Jones made a speech in the House last Friday about the War on Terror. How can I get a copy of his remarks?”
One of the best resources on the internet to answer these questions for The American Legion family is a Web site called THOMAS, whose Web address is: http://thomas.loc.gov. This Web site is administered by the Library of Congress and provides legislative information to any and all interested persons or organizations.
Your first question is probably, “Why THOMAS?” Very simply, the Web site is named after Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States (1801-1809). Jefferson was one of the nation’s founders, but he was also an intensely curious man: inventor,architect, scientist, farmer, gourmet, birdwatcher, archaeologist and lawyer.
During the War of 1812 with Great Britain, the nation’s capital was captured by British troops in August 1814. Many government buildings were burned, including the White House and the Library of Congress. To assist in the job of replacing the thousands of books lost to British incendiarism, Jefferson donated his entire personal library of nearly 6,500 books to the nation. It is this single act of philanthropy that inspired the Library of Congress to name its Web site for him.
Background and history notwithstanding, THOMAS is a useful Web site that is free to the general public; any member of The American Legion family can access the many functions and information on the site if they have access to a computer. In the weeks to come, we will explain how to use the many functions contained on THOMAS. Further, we will show you many of the resources available to you on this Web site that are not readily apparent.
Next: Finding a bill and what it can tell you.