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United States federal government publications

About congress

Congress' main function is lawmaking.

 

Members of the House or Senate introduce bills for consideration by the Congress. The Bill is referred to the appropriate committees for study and revisions. Hearings may be held, committee prints may be issued and congressional reports which contain the revised bill are produced.  

The revised bill is brought before the Congress for debate and approval.  Members of Congress vote on the final version of the bill. A bill approved by both chambers is sent to the President, who can sign it into law or veto it. Congress may override veto by a two-thirds majority vote in both houses, the bill then becomes law without the president's signature.

Key resources

Major Resource

Bills and resolutions

Bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions and simple resolutions are the four types of U.S. legislation.

Bill is the most commonly used form of proposed legislation. A legislative number is assigned to the bill, with "H.R." for bills introduced in the House of Representative and "S." for bills introduced in the Senate.

Resolutions usually pertain to more limited issues such as money measures, expressing facts or procedural matters.

Committees

Congressional committee hearings, committee prints and congressional reports are the three basic types of congressional committee publications. Congressional documents originate from congressional committees and may cover non-governmental reports.

Hearings provide a transcript of testimony, witness answers to committee questions, discussion and any supplementary materials inserted into the record such as exhibits, related reports, statistics, letters, or magazine articles.

Committee print is a special background research report on proposed legislation. It often provides highly valuable situation reports, statistics, historical background and legislative analyses.

Congressional reports and congressional documents are included in the serial set.

Congressional Record

Published daily while Congress is in session since 1873, the Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of U.S. Congress in the House and Senate.  It has four sections:

  1. proceedings of the House
  2. proceedings of the Senate, both include record of votes and legislative actions and full text of many bills
  3. extension of remarks are texts appended to record after the fact
  4. Daily Digest is a factual record of committee and floor proceedings

While cumulated into bound volumes, pagination in the sessional index is different from in the biweekly index which is for the daily issues.

Congressional Globe (1833-1873), Register of debates (1824-1837) and Annals of Congress (1789-1824) are viewed as predecessors of the Congressional Record.

Congressional Serial Set

The Congressional Serial Set, often referred to as the "Serial Set" or the "Sheep Set," contains the Congressional Reports and Congressional Documents.

A Congressional Report (Committee Report or House and Senate report) is a report sent by a congressional committee to the chamber floor along with a written explanation to recommend a bill. It often includes detailed analysis, committee rationale, issues disclosed in hearings, cost projections and roll-call votes.

Congressional Documents contain House and Senate Documents, Senate Executive Documents, and Senate Treaty Documents. It may include reports of executive departments and independent organizations, reports of special investigations made for Congress, and annual reports of non-governmental organizations.

For detailed contents, see "An overview of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set".

Please note

  • Until 1953, the official House and Senate Journals were also included in the Serial Set.
  • Treaty Documents were known as Executive Reports before 1981.
  • Senate executive documents and reports were not printed in the Serial Set until 1979.
  • The American State Papers often viewed as the predecessor of the Serial Set.

Congressional Quarterly (CQ)

CQ Weekly provides current congressional news, legislative tracking, member information, voting records and etc.

Weekly vote charts are incorporated annually in the CQ Almanac and Congressional Roll Call.

Congressional Research Service Reports (CRS Reports)

Working exclusively for Members of Congress, CRS is the public policy research section of the United States Congress and is also called "the nation's think tank."

It produces hundreds of in-depth reports for Congress on a variety of topics related to congressional legislation. However, the reports are not distributed directly to the public.

Since 1975-76, each supplement has also contained hundreds of shorter, more timely papers called issue briefs which include issue definitions, background and policy analyses, legislation passed and pending, a bibliography of hearings, reports and documents and other congressional actions, a chronology of events, and reference sources.

Where to Look Online for CRS Reports

Voting records

There are different ways to record congressional votes. Roll call votes indicate by name how a member voted while voice votes, division vote or standing votes only count the number of members voting "aye" or "no".

Directories and biographical information

Historical sources