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POL 325: Congress and the Presidency: Government Sources

Top Government Websites

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CONGRESS.GOV is the official website for US federal legislative information. The site provides access to accurate, timely, and complete legislative information for Members of Congress, legislative agencies, and the public. (Image Source)

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Each senator have their own website which can be reached by their These sites contain important statements and press releases about current senate activity.


The US Government Publishing Office (GPO) is the Federal Government's official, digital, secure resource for producing, procuring, cataloging, indexing, authenticating, disseminating, and preserving the official information products of the US Government. The Catalog of Government Publications is the finding tool for these publications. (Image Source)

Tips for Finding Government Documents

There are many different types of Government documents that are related to the Congress and the Presidency. In order to find information efficiently, take a moment to think about the kind of information you are trying to locate:

  1. Key Players
    Who are the government agencies, regulators, members of Congress, etc. that may have been involved? Start by searching for press releases and news briefs from their offices. This will help connect you to some of the language of legislation you can then use to search. 
  2. Type of Information
    Are you looking for laws? Statistical information? Congressional member remarks? Congressional records? Knowing what you are looking for will inform which search filters you use on (i.e. limiting to search for legislation vs searching through Congressional Records).
    1. Tip for this assignment - start by looking through Congressional Records. Congressional Records are what took place on the floor of Congress. Filter this search by the current Congress and the timeframe of the ACA amendment in Summer 2017. 
  3. Time Frame
    Filter your searches on any government website by the specific time frame of the legislation you are looking for. This might include day/date of votes, floor discussions, hearings, etc. For example, for documents on the ACA, the time frame is end of July 2017 into August 2017. 
  4. Citation
    The citation is one of the fastest ways of locating copies of legislation. Citations are alphabetical abbreviations for the branch of Congress in which they originated and a unique identification number. 
    1. The Active Legislation section of provides lists of bills currently receiving legislative or media attention. Bills are listed alphabetically by popular title or subject. 

Check out this "Key to Legislative Citations" table on the U.S. Senate website for explanation of what each part of the citation signifies.


Types of Congressional Publications

The U.S. Government is one of the single largest publishers of information. The major publications of the Congress are as follows: 

  • Congressional Hearings
    Hearings used to obtain information and opinions on the proposed legislation, conduct investigations, or evaluate the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. This is a great place to start for primary source information on how regulations have changed. 
  • Serial Sets
    Companion information for the Congressional Hearings; information that goes in and out of the committees during and in support of the legislative process. Contains both documents coming into the House and Senate and reports coming out of the House and Senate. This is best used for researching particular policy or topics across time.
  • Congressional Records
    The official records of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress; what happens on the floor of Congress. This is best used to track debates on topics across time, use of Congressional Rhetoric (such as the term "Obamacare"), tracking members' opinions and record on particular issues, and vote tracking.
  • CBO Reports
    Congressional Budget Office provides economic data to Congress for proposed legislation and enacted legislation.
  • CRS Reports
    Congressional Research Service produces reports, data, policy analysis, issue briefs, and more for Congress. 
  • Legislative Histories
    Tracking of laws from its first appearance as a bill in the House or the Senate through the hearings, revisions, discussions, and votes. Links to all versions, hearings, Serial Set publications, debates, etc. This is best used for looking at the legislative process or determining the intent behind the law. The Bill must become a law first in order for these documents to exist.
    • Use or
    • Please note: the above websites contain histories for older, monumental legislation.

Reading Congressional Records

Congressional Records are the official proceedings and debates on the U.S. Congress and essentially includes what happened verbatim on the floor of Congress. They are a wealth of resources for tracking current legislation including opinions, vote tracking, and more. 

Congressional Records are lengthy, but they all contain the same information (in this order):

  1. House of Representatives
    All floor debate and business of the House of Representatives
  2. Senate
    All floor debate and business of the Senate.
  3. Extension of Remarks
    Additions to debate and business by either the House or the Senate, that was not said on the floor, but submitted later for inclusion in the Congressional Record. 
  4. Daily Digest
    A summary of floor and committee actions in the Senate and House. It provides page reference within the Congressional Record to those actions. This section is located at the very end of the document and serves as an index to that day's proceedings. Visit the Congressional Record > Daily Digest browse page and select the appropriate day of Congress you would like to look for (e.g. July 27, 2017). 

When searching in any section, use the Ctrl+F feature on your keyboard to search within the PDF for keywords such as a Senator's name, key phrase, etc. 

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