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Government Information -Branches of Government: U.S. Congress

Research Guides

The LLRX Guide offers search tips and an overview of when to prefer each site. Both Thomas and GPO Legislative Branch websites provide access to Congressional materials: bill information, Public Laws, the Congressional Record, and hearings, committee reports, roll call votes and more. They offer different indexing options; you may prefer GPO for Hearings and quick access to other Congressional materials and Thomas for bills, roll call votes, and nitty gritty day-to-day Congressional processes.


Bills, hearings, committee prints, Congressional documents and reports, House and Senate calendars, operating manuals, etc.


How Laws Are Made: brief guide to the U.S. Legal system in English, French, and Spanish. Good for users unfamiliar with the legislative process.


Legislative Source Book from LLSDC

A comprehensive guide to Congressional information from the Law Librarians Society of Washington, D.C. 

Recommended Databases

This well established series from CQ Press offers comprehensive and signature coverage of Congressional action from 1945 to 2008. With the online edition users can quickly navigate through nearly 60 years of coverage of politics and policy, browsing by topic, tables of contents, as well as an alphabetical cumulative index. Users can also view tables of Key Votes for the House and Senate.

Created and hosted by CQ Press, the CQ Electronic Library (CQEL) is the definitive reference resource for research in American government, politics, history, public policy, and current affairs. CQEL offers four subject-specific reference databases: CQ Congress Collection, CQ Supreme Court Collection, CQ Public Affairs Collection, and, the newest arrival, CQ Voting and Elections Collection, each a destination of its own. CQEL also includes the foundational reference resource, CQ Encyclopedia of American Government; CQ Insider, a comprehensive directory of the institutions and people of American government; and the online version of the CQ Weekly, offering complete coverage of Capitol Hill.

In 262 entries, this examines landmark pieces of legislation, explaining the historical factors that led to the proposal of each act, looking at the adoption process and assessing each act's impact on American life. All aspects of legislation are covered, including the National Prohibition Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Freedom of Information Act and much more.

Additional Internet Resources


Official vote counts for federal elections from the official sources among the various states and territories. Coverage from 1920 - 2010. 

Evaluate members of Congress

American National Election Studies provides data from its own surveys on voting, public opinion, and political participation. ANES is a collaboration of Stanford University and the University of Michigan, with funding by the National Science Foundation.

Nonpartisan, nonprofit policy and education organization. The Center for the Study of the Presidency and Congress (CSPC) regularly publishes books, reports, and newsletters concerning the Presidency that are of interest to policymakers, scholars and the general public.

Legislative Materials

Constitution of the United States

Offers several versions of the Constitution. The link to the unratified amendments is very helpful. Includes links to selected Supreme Court decisions from 1893 to present.


GPO Access provides extensive coverage of Congressional materials. 


An excellent source of Congressional materials: bill information, Public Laws, the Congressional Record, and hearings, committee reports, roll call votes and more.

Congressional Hearings

A hearing is a meeting or session of a Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress, usually open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. Most congressional hearings are published two months to two years after they are held.

Both GPO and Thomas offer topical/keyword searching for Congressional Hearings issued after 1995.

GPO Access



Congressional Record

The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. The Congressional Record began publication in 1873, and is still published today.

The Congressional Record consists of four sections:

  • Daily Digest

  • House section

  • Senate section

  • Extension of Remarks

Debates for sessions prior to 1873 are recorded in The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (1789-1824), the Register of Debates in Congress (1824-1837), and the Congressional Globe (1833-1873). These can be accessed through A Century of Lawmaking For a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates.

Congressional Research Service Reports (CRS)

The Congressional Research Service, an arm of the Library of Congress, serves the legislative process by providing Congress with non-partisan and in-depth legislative research and analysis on a variety of topics. CRS produces or updates more than 3,000 studies and other publications each year, none of which are distributed to the public. However many sites host reports relating to their main mission/interest providing a great public service.

Great overview site explaining what CRS reports are and with many links to various sites hosting them.

Federation of American Scientists Founded in 1945 by scientists who built the first atomic bombs, FAS works to ensure that public policy is informed by intelligent, accurate scientific research. 

University of North Texas This academic site is sponsored by ALA and hosts a growing collection of the reports

State Department

Reports on Environmental Law and Policy hosted by the National Council for Science and the Environment

Reports on Homeland Security/Terrorism and Health Law and Policy hosted bt the Thurgood Marshall Law Library

Reports on Intellectual Property, Cyberlaw and Electronic Commerce hosted by the University of New Hampshire

Reports on Congress and its Procedures hosted by Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C.

U.S. Code

Codified (organized by topic) version of all federal laws currently in force. Various sites offer the U.S. Code online, each with slightly different search features and tools. Classification guides show where newly passed legislation will be entered into code. Popular names tables translate the popular name of law to the official title.

Browse the U.S. Code
Browse the U.S. Code by year since 1994. The Government Printing Office (GPO) offers pdf and text formats.

Browse and Search the U.S. Code and Related Tables
The House of Representatives Office of Law Revision Council offers additional tools such as a classification guide and popular names table.

U.S. Code and Popular Names Table
The Legal Information Institute (Cornell University Law School) also offers a useful popular names table in addition to a searchable version of the U.S. Code.

U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1980 contains House and Senate documents and reports on U.S. political, social, cultural, military and ethnic history, as well as international relations, explorations, genealogy, commerce, and industrial development. Its contents come not only from the U.S. Congress, but also include key Executive Department publications. The database contains all publications from the 15th through the 103rd Congresses (1817-1994). Users can search, as well as browse by subject, geographic names, personal names, and an A-Z index. This resource can be used for legislative and historical research.

Additional Resources from GPO
Includes numerical lists of documents and reports from 1957 forward as well as schedules of Serial Set volumes from 1987 forward.

Statutes at Large (Recent)

The U.S. Statutes at Large is a chronological arrangement of all laws enacted by Congress. The U.S. Code is an updated, subject arrangement of all general and permanent U.S. law so enacted.

Statutes at Large and the U.S. Code: Historical Outlines, Notes, Lists, Tables, and Sources

Government Information Librarian

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Jane Cramer
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