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POL 411 Congress Structure and Function   Tags: congress_rules_and_procedures, united_states_congress  

POL 411 Congress Structure and Function
Last Updated: Jul 10, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts
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POL 411

POL 411 Congress: Structure and Function


Purdue Libraries, as a federal depository library, provide access to many U.S. Government information resources including those produced by the U.S. Congress. Web links to a variety of congressional information resources are provided on the legislative section of the Purdue Libraries Government Document Department website. Numerous paper, microform, and electronic information resources are produced by the U.S. House and Senate, congressional committees, and congressional support agencies. Most of these are in the government documents collection on the 1st floor of HSSE Library's periodical stacks and have call numbers beginning with the letters X or Y with the following being examples:
Y 4.AR 5/3:S.HRG. 108-301, Y 10.2:B 85/3, and Y 1.1/8:109-88. Many recent versions of these resources are online.

The Libraries Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) is a good place to begin looking for congressional information. Library of Congress Subject Headings (LCSH) terms you can use to search include:

Legislative Power United States
Legislators United States Biography
United States Congress
United States Congress House Discipline
United States Congress Senate Committee on Foreign Relations

Connect HERE for information on downloading Purdue Libraries Ebooks.  Information on the legislative process can be found HERE

Useful commercial journals and databases for accessing information about Congress and its activities include:

CQ Congressional

CQ Researcher

CQ Weekly

PAIS International

Roll Call 

Federal resources for accessing congressional legislative information include Federal Digital System (FDSYS) and the Library of Congress' Thomas. Both of these resources can be used for searching congresional bills, committee reports on legislation, and the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record is a particularly important publication because it contains the text of bills, speeches made by Representatives and Senators, and recorded votes.

Websites for the House of Representatives and Senate contain information about the overall workings of each house, links to the websites of individual Representatives and Senators, and links to congressional committee websites. The Clerk of the House features administrative information about Representatives and House activities including members foreign travel reports. Congressional committees are very valuable information resources. These committees are responsible for reviewing proposed or existing legislation, conducting oversight of current federal programs, and determining funding for these programs. Congressional committees have subpoena authority and generally swear witnesses in before their testimony. Witnesses testifying before congressional committees include experts from government agencies, the military, academe, corporations, nonprofit organizations, and average citizens. Hearing transcripts will contain questioning of witnesses by committee members which can become heated and a wide variety of substantive reports submitted by committee members from a variety of sources. Committees also publish reports on proposed legislation and reports documenting their activities during individual two-year congressional sessions.

Paper copies of congressional committee hearings from 1975-present are located in the Y 4 area of the HSSE Library Government Documents collection on the 1st floor of the HSSE periodical stacks. We have extensive collections of pre-1975 congressional committee hearings in the HSSE Attic which can be requested through the Government Information Librarian. Many recent versions of these publications are also Internet accessible. Examples of congressional committee hearing transcripts and their call numbers include:

House Agriculture Committee HSSE DOC Y 4.AG 8/1:
[Review of the Industry Response to the Safety of Fresh and Fresh-Cut Produce. HSSE DOC Y 4.AG 8/1:110-23]
House Administration Committee HSSE DOC Y 4.H 81/3:
Ensuring the Rights of College Students to Vote
Senate Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee HSSE DOC Y 4.B 22/3:
[Federal Reserve's Monetary Policy Report for 2007. HSSE DOC Y 4.B 22/3:S.HRG. 110-182]
Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee HSSE DOC Y 4.G 74/9
[The Role of Market Speculation in Rising Oil and Gas Prices: A Need to Put the Cop Back on the Beat: Staff Report]. HSSE DOC Y 4.G 74/9:S.PRT. 109-65
Congressional Bills (Full text of all versions of congressional bills 1993-present)
Congressional Directory (Lists members of Congress, committee membership, major U.S. Govt. officials, and foreign diplomats.)
Congressional Pictorial Directory (113th Congress)
Statement of Disbursements of the House.... HSSE Repository Y 1.1/7 (Quarterly statistical compilation documenting the office expenditures of Representatives, Committees, and their staff.)
Financial Disclosure Reports of Members of the U.S. House of Representatives... HSSE Repository Y 1.1/7
Foreign Travel Reports (House)
Gift and Travel Filings (House)

Status of Appropriations Legislation for Fiscal  Year  (Features information on and the text of agency appropriations from 1998-present.)

House Practice:  A Guide to the Rules, Precedents, & Procedures of the House
Congressional Calendars (1995-Present)-Contain legislative history and scheduling information.
Senate Manual (Contains Senate rules and procedures)
Secretary of the Senate (Contains information about Senate organization and operation.)

A useful commercially produced index to congressional publications is the CIS INDEX HSSE REF 328.73005 C76. This resource, covering 1970-present, makes it possible to see which witnesses testified before a congressional committee hearing, track the history of legislation, and find congressional committee publications on particular topics.

Earmarks Database (This Office of Management & Budget resource lists information on congressionally provided funds for projects, programs, or grants where ususal congressional direction goes around usual merit-based or competitive allocation processes, or restricts executive branch ability to manage fund allocation processes. Covers 2007-2010.

Besides the professional staffs of Representatives of Representatives and Senators and the expertise contained on congressional committees, there are three major congressional support agencies advising Congress on public policy issues: The Library of Congress' Congressional Research Service (CRS), the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), and Government Accountability Office (GAO).

CRS provides members of Congress with nonpartisan analysis and advice on public policy issues from accounting to zoology. Although it does not have an official website, numerous CRS reports are accessible on the Legislative Section of the Purdue Libraries Documents Department website linked above and the University of North Texas Libraries site linked to in the previous paragraph which is also accessible through the Purdue Libraries online catalog.

CBO is responsible for advising Congress on federal budget issues and on budgetary data and implications of individual federal programs such as Medicare, the cost of military operations, etc.

GAO is Congress' accounting arm and issues hundreds of reports each year on the management performance of individual federal programs.

The C-SPAN website  and C-SPAN Video Library are also useful sources for congressional information because theyl contain video webcasts of some committee hearings. Some congressional committees maintain live and/or archived audio or video webcasts of hearings on their website.

Bert Chapman
Government Information, Political Science, & Economics Librarian/
Professor of Library Science

Subject Specialist

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Bert Chapman
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(765) 494-2837
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