About the Congressional Record
The Congressional Record is a substantially verbatim account of remarks made during the proceedings of the House and Senate. It has been published by the Government Printing Office (GPO) since 1873. Before 1873, records of congressional proceedings were kept under various titles: Annals of Congress, Register of Debates and Congressional Globe. These may be found in the Century of Lawmaking collection in American Memory.
Official Reporters and Member offices edit and add text following the proceedings, after which the text of amendments, conference reports, and some bills and resolutions are added. Other materials such as lists of added cosponsors, notices of messages from the President and the other chamber; lists of Presidential nominations; and Résumés of Congressional Activity are also included.
GPO publishes new issues of the Congressional Record daily and transmits each new issue to the Library of Congress overnight. A new issue becomes available on Congress.gov the following morning.
How the Congressional Record is Organized
The Congressional Record consists of four sections:
- Senate (floor proceedings)
- House (floor proceedings)
- Extensions of Remarks (additional remarks from House Members)
- Daily Digest (summary of floor and committee proceedings, plus schedules for the next day in session)
Each part is paginated separately and continuously for each session of Congress. Page numbers are preceded by single letters designating the part: H for House, S for Senate, E for Extensions, D for Daily Digest (e.g., S2987, H14990, E19, D2339).
After the end of each session, a permanent final version, referred to as the Congressional Record (Bound Edition), is prepared. In this version, the pagination is continuous, without any section designations, and there is some editing and rearrangement. Congressional Record files on Congress.gov represent the daily edition, not the permanent edition.
What is Included in Each Section
House and Senate Sections
The House and Senate sections contain debates and statements made on the floor of each chamber, as well as records of various parliamentary actions and roll call votes. In addition, they contain communications from the President and the executive branch, memorials, petitions and information about legislation, including amendments. Committee activities are not reported here, though mention is made of reports received and meeting notices. Conference committee reports typically are printed in the Congressional Record. Members are allowed to edit the transcript of their floor remarks before publication in the daily record or the permanent record.
Extensions of Remarks
The Extension of Remarks section is now used only by representatives to include additional legislative statements not actually delivered on the House floor, as well as extraneous material, such as texts of speeches delivered outside Congress, letters from and tributes to constituents and newspaper or magazine articles. Similar extraneous material from senators is inserted in the Additional Statements section of the Senate part of the record.
The Daily Digest section provides a concise summary of the day's congressional activity. Typically, it is organized under these headings:
- Senate Chamber Actions
- Senate Committee Meetings
- House Chamber Actions
- House Committee Meetings
- Committee Meetings Scheduled for the Following Day
Friday (or the last legislative day of the week) issues contain a section titled Congressional Program Ahead, which outlines the plans of each chamber and its committees for the upcoming week.
Users can access the Congressional Record via three online sources, found in the table below:
|Congress.gov*||104th Congress (1995) to present**|
|GPO FDsys***||2nd Session of the 103rd Congress (1994)|
|THOMAS.gov||101st Congress (1989)|
* Congress.gov will incorporate all of the Congressional Record data available on THOMAS.gov over time.
** There are known data issues for the January 3, 2012 and January 1-3, 2013 issues of the Congressional Record.
*** FDsys contains the full text of Congressional Record from volume 140 (1994) to the present and has the Annual Index going back to 1983.
Find more information about the Congressional Record in:
- A Century of Law Making for a New Nation: Debates of Congress, American Memory, Library of Congress
- How to . . . find the Congressional Record, U.S. Senate
- An Overview of the Congressional Record and Its Predecessor Publications (external link), Richard J. McKinney, Assistant Law Librarian, Federal Reserve Board Law Library, Law Librarians’ Society, Washington D.C.
- Reporters of Debate and the Congressional Record, U.S. Senate
- Sessions of Congress with Corresponding Debate Record Volume Numbers (1789-2006) (external link), Legislative Research Special Interest Section, Law Librarians’ Society, Washington, D.C.