POL 411 Congress: Structure and Function
Purdue Libraries, as a federal depository library, provides 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:
Useful commercial journals and databases for accessing information about Congress and its activities include:
Reference Sources include Almanac of American Politics HSSE REF 328.73005 AL62 (older 2nd floor HSSE Periodical Stacks) and CQ's Politics in America HSSE REF 328.73073025 C7605 (older 2nd floor HSSE Periodical Stacks)
Federal resources for accessing congressional legislative information include Federal Digital System (FDSYS) and the Library of Congress' Congress.gov Both of these resources can be used for searching congressional 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. ProQuest Congressional can be used to search for historic congressional and executive branch documents from 1789-1969 and the Congressional Record and its predecessor publications until 1997.
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 House of Representatives History Office provides information about this institution's historical development and evolution. Similar information on Senate History and Art is also available. The Clerk of the House features administrative information about Representatives and House activities including members foreign travel reports and biographical information on historic and current members.. 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. Congressional committee hearings are valuable sources for understanding the congressional funding, oversight, and policymaking progress. The following Government Publishing Office webinar explains the materials available in these hearings. Examples of congressional committee hearing transcripts and their call numbers include:
House Agriculture Committee HSSE DOC Y 4.AG 8/1:
The Importance of Trade to U.S. Agriculture (March 18, 2015 hearing) HSSE DOC Y 4.AG 8/1:114-5]
House Administration Committee HSSE DOC Y 4.H 81/3:
United States Capitol Police (May 20, 2015 hearing)
Senate Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs Committee HSSE DOC Y 4.B 22/3:
The Flood Insurance Claims Process in Communities After Sandy: Lessons Learned and Potential Improvements (July 30, 2014 hearing). HSSE DOC Y 4.B 22/3:S.HRG. 113-483]
Obama's Carbon Mandate: An Account of Collusion, Cutting Corners, and Costing Americans Billions (August 4, 2015 Senate Environment & Public Works Majority Staff report)
Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee HSSE DOC Y 4.G 74/9
Examining the Proper Role of Judicial Review in the Federal Regulatory Process. (April 28, 2015 Hearing) HSSE DOC Y 4.G 74/9:S.HRG. 114-33
Congressional Bills (Full text of all versions of congressional bills 1993-present)
Government Publishing Office webinar on congressional bills
Congressional Directory (Lists members of Congress, committee membership, major U.S. Govt. officials, and foreign diplomats.)
Congressional Pictorial Directory (114th 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 (2011)
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.)
Foreign Travel Reports Senate (Courtesy: Congressional Record 2003-Present)
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 (UNT) site linked to in the previous paragraph which is also accessible through the Purdue Libraries online catalog. UNT's website provides access to over 20,000 CRS reports as of August 2015.
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. It also provides estimates on the costs of legislation reported by congressional committees.
GAO is Congress' accounting arm and issues hundreds of reports each year on the management performance of individual federal programs.
The Architect of the Capitol manages the U.S. Capitol's physical infrastructure and ongoing dome renovation.
CSPAN is a valuable source for congressional information of congressional floor proceedings in their entirety and many congressional hearings. Some congressional committees maintain live and/or archived audio or video webcasts of hearings on their website, but many of these are also archived in the CSPAN website. CSPAN Congress focuses on CSPAN's congressional programming. HERE is an example of 2015 House of Representatives debate on the proposed 2016 appropriations bill for the Interior Department, Environmental Protection Agency, and related agencies.
Government Information, Political Science, & Economics Librarian/
Professor of Library Science