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*Government Information: Federal

Finding government resources at OSU, including Federal, State, and International, Census and statistical resources, and subject specific information.

Congressional Research Tutorials

University of California-Berkeley, created by UCB librarians Jesse Silva and Karen Munro. (Linked by permission.)

University of Florida Libraries:

Current Congressional Documents and Information

Congressional information is found in a variety of places, both online and in the library. 

Debates

The Congressional Record and its predecessors contain a record of the proceedings of Congress. These are not verbatim transcripts, as members are allowed to edit their remarks and insert remarks not actually spoken.

Online (Current issues):

 

Votes

Congress.gov: Roll Call Votes by the U.S. Congress are recorded here by session. If you know the approximate date the vote occurred you can find them easily. There is no subject access to votes and the description of each vote is very brief.

  • Senate recorded floor votes from the 101st Congress (1989-90),
  • House recorded floor votes from the second session of the 101st Congress (1990). 

Congressional Record is the official source of information on recorded floor votes. Votes are printed in the daily Record  (at Congress.gov and searchable back to 1995) as they occur on the floor. The votes provide an alphabetical listing of members under “yea,” “nay,” and “not voting” categories and show the overall tally for each category.  However, votes are not identified by party or by state. The Daily Digest section that is printed at the end of each Record shows how many roll call votes were taken that day and show on what page in the Record the votes can be found. The Congressional Record Index provides subject access to the votes (under “Votes in Senate” and “Votes in House”). The Senate website provides a very useful guide including links to all aspects of CR available online here.

CQ Magazine (aka CQ Weekly, online from 1998; before 1998, in print as Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, JK1 .C2) compiles voting charts of all votes taken in the Senate and House each week. The charts are arranged chronologically by Congressional Record vote number and alphabetically by state. Members’ names are listed in the left-hand column and vote numbers are shown at the top of the chart.  The charts show how each member voted or whether the member was absent or paired on a vote. There are also overall vote tallies and party breakdowns on the vote. Weekly vote charts are compiled annually in two CQ books, CQ Almanac (JK1 .C65) and Congressional Roll Call (JK1051.C6) which contain subject indexes to the votes.

 

Congressional Documents and Committee Reports

Reports - House and Senate Reports are committee reports on proposed legislation. Once a bill is "reported" it can be sent to the floor of the House or Senate for debate or voting.

Documents - House and Senate Documents are publications printed by order of Congress. They include reports of executive branch agencies, special studies done for Congress, and reports of some non-governmental groups.

In the Library: Congressional Reports and Documents (1980 - present) in microfiche (3rd floor):

  • Senate Reports - Docs Fiche Y 1.1/5:[rept. no.]
  • House Reports - Docs Fiche Y 1.1/8:[rept. no.]
  • Senate Documents - Docs Fiche Y 1.1/3:[doc. no.]
  • House Documents - Docs Fiche Y 1.1/7:[doc. no.]

Full text Online

  • FDsys (in the Featured Collections list) 99th Congress (1985-86) to present.
  • Congress.gov (choose Committee Reports from the drop-down next to the search box) 104th Congress (1995-96) to present.

 

Hearings

Published committee hearings include transcripts of testimony, question and answer sessions, and any supplementary material inserted into the record. Not all hearings are published. Since congressional committees do not have a statutory requirement to adhere to a mandated printing schedule, the interval between the time a hearing is held and the time it is printed can vary greatly. Since congressional committees do not have a statutory requirement to publish hearings, it is not even certain that a hearing that is held will ever be officially published.

Index for finding published hearings:  CIS US Congressional Committee Hearings Index. KF40 .C56 1981. Published in parts. Each part has vols. for Reference bibliograph,; Index by subjects and organizations, and Index by personal names.OSU has volumes for 1953 (83rd Congress) through 1969 (91st Congress)

Location: Check online catalog for availability and format.

  • OSU has hearings from about 1980 - 1999 on microfiche.
  • Hearings from 1999 - present are collected in paper and many are online.

Pre-1980 hearings: We have a collection of selected pre-1980 hearings. Most are not cataloged. Location: Documents stacks arranged by committee name and title.

There is a Hearings card file (in the Docs shelf list) that indexes pre 1953 hearings (requires staff assistance; please contact Government Information Librarian to make arrangements)

Online sources for hearings:

 

Committee Prints

Congressional Committee Prints are publications issued by Congressional Committees that include topics related to their legislative or research activities, as well as other matters such as memorial tributes. The prints are an excellent resource for statistical and historical information, and for legislative analysis. The subjects of the Committee Prints vary greatly due to the different concerns and actions of each committee. Some basic categories of Congressional Committee Prints are: draft reports and bills, directories, statistical materials, investigative reports, historical reports, situational studies, confidential staff reports, hearings, and legislative analyses.

Many committee prints are not widely distributed and are not made available to libraries. OSU has some prints from about 1980 - 1999 on microfiche. Prints from 1999 - present are collected in paper and online. Check online catalog (1Search) for availability and format.

Online (selected full text):

Finding Aids:

 

Bills

OSU has House and Senate Bills from 1987 (100th Congress) - 2000 (106th Congress) on microfiche. For previous years, text of bills may be included in the Congressional Record or in Senate and House reports, prints and hearings. Current bills are available online (see below).

Online full text and finding aids:

  • Congress.gov: indexing and full text from 1993 (103rd) - present; choose "All Legislation" in the pull-down next to the search box.
  • FDsys: indexing and full text from 1993 (103rd) - present

 

Public and Private Laws (aka Slip Laws)

Public and private laws are also known as slip laws. A slip law is an official publication of the law and is competent evidence admissible in all state and Federal courts and tribunals of the United States. Public laws affect society as a whole, while private laws affect an individual, family, or small group.

After the President signs a bill into law, it is assigned a law number, legal statutory citation (public laws only), and prepared for publication as a slip law. Private laws receive their legal statutory citations when they are published in the United States Statutes at Large.

Prior to publication as a slip law, marginal notes and citations are added for each law, as well as a legislative history for public laws only. Until the slip law is published, through the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO), the text of the law can be found by accessing the enrolled version of the bill.

Online:

  • FDsys  from 104th Congress (1995)
  • Congress.gov.  Bill summary and status records, Public laws only, 93rd (1973) through current Congress. The text of Public Laws is available from the 104th Congress (1995) to the present; the text of Enrolled (final) versions of legislation is available from the 101st Congress (1989) to the present. Source: Library of Congress (bill texts), GPO (Public Law texts)

 

Statutes at Large

This is the permanent, official collection of every public and private law and resolution enacted by Congress.

Online:

  • FDsys
    • The most current volumes prepared and published by the Office of the Federal Register (OFR), National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) are v.117-v.121 (2003-2007) covering the 108th-110th Congresses; these are fully searchable.
    • Digitized versions (at less granularity than the post-2003 volumes) are available for volumes 65-116 (1951-2002) covering the 82nd-107th Congresses. They are in a section of FDsys called  Additional Government Publications.

 

United States Code

The United States Code is the codification by subject matter of the general and permanent laws of the United States. It is divided by broad subjects into 50 titles and published by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives. Since 1926, the United States Code has been published every six years. In between editions, annual cumulative supplements are published in order to present the most current information.

Online:

Print

  • KF61 .U51 (from 1940) (5th floor)

CD-ROM:

  • Valley Docs CD Y 1.2/5-2 (from 1992) (3rd floor)

Congressional Conversion Chart

Often ignored, but very useful, is a way to translate dates to Congressional session. If you're looking for a bill passed in February of 1992, and you only have the date, which Congress and session was it? Where can you find out so that you can do a better search?

Wikipedia has a useful chart at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_Congresses that you may want to keep handy for these situations!

From Bill to Law

Process of Bill to Law

  1. Bill drafted (by members of Congress, the Administration, or others)
  2. Introduction in House (H.R. ####) or Senate (S.###); sent to committee, or desk, or calendar
  3. Committee action/inaction | Hearings/Markup
  4. Vote to report bill  |  writing report
  5. Floor Activity / (House may refer to Rules Committee) / Debate / Votes
  6. Sent to other chamber to go through same process
  7. Conference: a joint committee resolving differences between House and Senate bills (if necessary) / Votes
  8. President: signs or vetoes
  9. Written into law: printed, codified
  10. Regulations written to instruct us how to follow the new law

This process is seldom smooth or direct. Bills may be sent back to committee or to a different committee for more work, be amended, “die” through inaction, be pulled by the sponsor, be re-introduced in a future session with minor or major changes and a new name, etc. It is important to rethink this process with each bill you research, and keep in mind the kinds of political or procedural maneuvering  that can happen at any point.

For more details please see “The Legislative Process” on CONGRESS.GOV.