Wednesday, May 19, 2010

US Congressional Proceedings

To find out what Congress is up to or had been up to in the past, you'll want to look at the Congressional Record. Since 1873, the US has kept a daily transcript of Congressional sessions, and you can access recent records from two places: the Government Printing Office (GPO) and THOMAS from the Library of Congress.

THOMAS goes back a little farther than the GPO (1989 versus 1994), but every report may not be accessible within those timeframes. The GPO is a bit easier to browse, but both allow searching. Both sites also advocate finding a federal depository library, which you will need if you want an older Congressional Record issue. Once you find a depository library near you, you'll have to contact it to see what records they have.

Neither website is particular difficult to use, but spend some time reading the "About" sections and any "Help" sections. It may take some hunting to find what you are looking for, but a little persistence should pay off.

Another website useful for keeping tabs on the current session of Congress is OpenCongress. You can create an account, but you can also gets lots of information without doing so. Keep track of bills and issues on the floors of the House and the Senate, find out who your representatives are and what the committees are doing, and see who gets money from where. OpenCongress makes wide use of social networking services, so do sign up for those if you want to stay up to the minute on your government in action.

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