Search Tools

You can search Congress.gov using the search box available on most pages (main search), a collection-specific quick search or the advanced search page. Advanced search gives you the option of using a guided search form or a command line entry box for using SOLR query syntax.

What Is Searched

From the main search, legislation from the current Congress, including bill summary and status information (metadata) and full bill text, is searched by default. To change the scope of your search by source, choose one from the selection list next to the search entry box. Source options include Current Legislation, All Legislation, All Sources, Members (profiles), Congressional Record, Committee Reports, Nominations, Treaty Documents and Executive Communications.

Searching by Number

Bill, resolution and amendment numbers include an alphabetical prefix and a number. Committee reports include an alphabetical prefix, Congress number and report number. Public laws include an alphabetical prefix, Congress number and law number.

To search, enter the prefix and number with or without spaces and periods, and in upper or lowercase. From the main search use the field label cite: to eliminate hits on related bills or bill numbers in summaries. For example, cite:"hr933".

See Search by Number (Citation) for a complete list of acceptable formats and examples, including examples for nomination, treaty document and executive communication numbers.

Search Operators

Search operators must be entered in uppercase. If no operator is used, a space between two words defaults to the OR operator.

Use OR between search terms to retrieve results containing at least one of the terms.

Use AND between search terms to retrieve results containing both terms.

Use NOT before a search term to retrieve results that do not contain that term. You can substitute a minus sign (-) for NOT.
Note: Use with caution as it is easy to eliminate relevant results unintentionally.

Use the required operator (+) before a search term to retrieve results that contain that term.

Use the proximity operator (~) to find two or more words within a specified distance of each other. Enter your search terms enclosed in quotation marks, followed by ~ and a number, to indicate how near your search terms should be to each other. For example, "John Kennedy"~3
Note: The proximity operator does not specify order.

Use ? in the middle or at the end of a word to indicate a single character 'wildcard'. Finds results that include the search term with a single character variant.

Use * in the middle or end of a word to indicate a multiple character 'wildcard'. Finds results that include the search term with zero or more character variants.

See Search Operators for examples.

Word Variants

By default, Congress.gov searches for the words in your search query as well as other forms of the words such as plurals. For example, a search on the word 'custom' will find items containing custom, customs, customer, customers and customize. Quick search pages give you the option to search only the form of a word as entered in Words/Phrases by unchecking the Word Variants box.

Case Sensitive Searching

Case sensitive searching is turned off by default, which means you can enter your search terms in upper, lower or mixed case letters. Quick search pages give you the option to search for terms as entered by checking the Case Sensitive box. For example, a search on 'AIDS' will no longer return items containing 'aids' if the box is checked.

Field Searching

Use a field label to control where your search term or phrase is found. For example, to retrieve legislation with the word 'snap' in the title, type title:snap in the search box. A complete list of fields is available on the advanced search command line page. The advanced search form provides a selection list of available fields.

Quick search provides selection lists for searching sponsors, cosponsors, committees and legislative actions. In addition, field labels can be used in the quick search Words/Phrases box.

Refining a Search

After your search results are returned, you can refine the set with facets or by using Search Within. Quick and advanced searches can be modified by adding or deleting criteria from the search form or command line at the top of the results page.

Using Facets

Facets provide a way to narrow, or reduce, your set of search results by selecting additional search criteria from among those available in your initial result set. Facets are hidden by default on quick search results. Click on Show Facets to display. To learn more about specific facets available in Congress.gov, see Refining with Facets.

Using Search Within

Another way to narrow your set is by searching within your results. After executing a search from the main search, check Search Within on the right of the search box and enter your additional search terms. All of your search terms, original and additional, will be displayed at the top of your results. You can remove any term from your search by clicking on it.

Facets and Search Within can be used together.

Navigating Search Results

The search results list provides brief information about each item. Select an item from the list to see the full content. Use your browser back button to return to the search results list, or use your browser's bookmark feature to save a direct link to your results.