The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. At the back of each daily issue is the Daily Digest, which summarizes the day’s floor and committee activities.
The daily printed account of proceedings in both the House and Senate chambers, showing substantially verbatim debate, statements, and a record of floor action. Highlights of legislative and committee action are embodied in the Daily Digest section of the Record, and members are entitled to have their extraneous remarks printed in an appendix known as Extension of Remarks. Members may edit and revise remarks made on the floor during debate, and quotations from debate reported by the press are not always found in the Record.
The Congressional Record provides a way to distinguish remarks spoken on the floor of the House and Senate from undelivered speeches. In the Senate, large black dots or bullets set off all speeches, articles and other matter that senators insert in the Record without actually reading them on the Senate floor. However, a loophole allows a senator to avoid the bulleting if he delivers any portion of the speech in person. In the House, undelivered speeches and other material are printed in a distinctive typeface. (See also Journal.)
Secrets of the Congressional Record
The Congressional Record began publication in 1873. Printed by the Government Publishing Office (GPO), it is the fourth and final series of publications containing the debates of Congress. (It was preceded by the Annals of Congress, Register of Debates, and Congressional Globe.) The Record is far more comprehensive than its predecessors in reporting Congressional debates. Appendixes appear in most volumes, the earlier ones limited mainly to speeches of members.
The Daily Digest is the key to finding information in the Congressional Record. It is much like a table of contents in a book, but is found in the back of each daily edition of the Record. The permanent edition of the Record includes a Daily Digest volume that cumulates each issue for the year. The Library of Congress site provides a variety of RSS feeds and email subscriptions.
U.S. Government Printing Office: Production of the Congressional Record
Chamber and committee activities are summarized separately for the Senate and House. Measures introduced and passed, amendment activity, appointments, nominations, and roll call votes from the previous meeting are listed with page numbers to those actions within the Record‘s full text.
Although the Congressional Record does not contain transcripts of committee hearings (those are published separately), the Daily Digest does summarize committee activities, and provides lists of committee meetings scheduled for that day or the next day, including the topic of the hearing and a list of witnesses. At the end of the legislative week, usually on Friday, the Digest contains a section outlining the “Congressional Program Ahead,” which outlines the plans of each chamber and its committees for the upcoming week.
The Digest lists times of meetings of both houses; measures reported, considered or signed into law; measures scheduled for action during the next meeting and the announcements of upcoming committee meetings. Its pages are numbered separately and are preceded by the letter D. At the beginning of each month, the Résumé of Congressional Activity provides a cumulative statistical summary of congressional activity for the year.
Even though House floor proceedings have been televised on C-SPAN since 1979 and Senate floor proceedings since 1986, the Congressional Record is viewed as a more reliable account of these proceedings in each chamber. This is so because in the course of conducting business on the floor, members frequently ask for–and are almost always granted–a truncated reading of a bill or amendment and, instead, its printing in full in the Congressional Record. Similarly, members often offer motions in an abbreviated form in order to save time and expedite action. Accordingly, the video transcripts of floor proceedings are not complete nor technically accurate. On the other hand, in the Congressional Record everything is printed as if it had been fully read or exactly stated. Thus the Congressional Record presents a complete and grammatically correct rendition of all bill and amendment texts and of all motions or other procedural matters. The Congressional Record is also more accurate because members are allowed to grammatically revise and extend their spoken remarks (extension of remarks) in the Congressional Record, and such editing cannot be done during live broadcasts of floor proceedings.
U.S. Government Publishing Office: GPO History
- Congressional Record and Daily Digest – Congress.gov
- Congressional Record – Govinfo.gov
- Congressional Record Index – Govinfo.gov
- Extensions of Remarks – Govinfo.gov
- Resume of Congressional Activity – FDsys
- Resume of Congressional Activity – Senate
- “A User’s Guide to the Congressional Record,” CRS Report 98-265 (6-page PDF)
- “Congressional Record: Its Production, Distribution, and Accessibility,” CRS Report 98-266 (4-page PDF)
- “From Slip Law to United States Code: A Guide to Federal Statutes for Congressional Staff,” CRS Report R45190 (17-page PDF)
- Congressional Operations Briefing – Capitol Hill Workshop
- Drafting Federal Legislation and Amendments
- Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing
- Custom, On-Site Training
- Drafting Effective Federal Legislation and Amendments in a Nutshell, Audio Course on CD
- Congress, the Legislative Process, and the Fundamentals of Lawmaking Series, a Nine-Course series on CD
Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook: A Practical Guide
Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates
CongressionalGlossary.com, from TheCapitol.Net
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