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US Government Publications: Legislative/Congressional


Established by Article I of the Constitution, the Legislative Branch consists of the House of Representatives and the Senate, which together form the United States Congress. The Constitution grants Congress the sole authority to enact legislation and declare war, the right to confirm or reject many Presidential appointments, and substantial investigative powers.

Congress is made up of two chambers: 

  • The House (House of Representatives) which represents citizens based on proportional representation (a congressman/woman representing a specific congressional district). 
  • The Senate represents each state equally (two senators per state).

Investigations are held through various Committees which can be focused in the Senate/House or on joint Committees. Committees may hold hearings, produce reports, and review bills and legislation. 

Databases and online collections of the main Congressional publications include: 

Latest Congress bookmarks saved on diigo

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American State Papers - contain the legislative and executive documents of Congress during the period 1789 to 1838. Succeeded by the Serial Set. 

Congressional Committee Prints - documents produced by Congressional Committees, often as background information. 

Congressional Hearings - a formal investigation overseen by the House, Senate or joint chambers. 

Congressional Record - the official verbatim record of speeches and debates held within Congress. Started publishing in 1874. Previous publications such as the Annals of Congress (1789-1824), Register of Debates (1824-1837) and the Congressional Globe (1833-1873) did not include a complete record of debates, but did record highlighted speeches and debates. 

Congressional Research Service Report (CRS Reports) - By law, CRS works exclusively for Congress, providing timely, objective, and authoritative research and analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of political party affiliation.

(House & Senate) Journals- a constitutionally-mandated record of certain House and Senate actions, including motions offered, votes taken, and amendments agreed to. They should be seen as the minutes of floor action

Roll Call - a publication which records the voting records for individuals bills, published since 1967. 

(U.S.) Serial Set - papers and official records of the House and Senate. Includes House and Senate Journals. Began publication in 1817.  

Official Government websites

From 1979, video recordings of congressional activity, was made avaialable to the American public via the cable TV channel C-SPAN. The official government congressional websites will also include live videolinks of current debates, alongside documents related to specific committees and daily floor activity. Some historic material related to key events are also being made available. 

Congressional government publications

Finding Congressional Hearings 

In addition to the above online collections the VHL has a large collection of printed reports from Congressional committee hearings from the mid 20th century, many of which are not catalogued on SOLO, or have yet been digitised. They are in the stack arranged by their Government SuDoc reference number (beginning with a Y), so if you find a document you would like to look at, please put in a request quoting this number and we will look to see if we have it. You can find SuDoc reference numbers from the Indexes (see the Finding Aids tab). Please note however that the collection is not comprehensive so we cannot guarantee to have the report you are looking for.

Finding CRS Reports 

Historic CRS Reports can be found in the VHL. We also have a microfilm collection of key reports. You may also want to try HeinOnline or LLMC, which includes other online reports. 

You may also want to check: 

Information about Congressional Representatives/Senators and Congressional Elections