Glossary of Terms Related to Congressional Records
The following are terms that may appear in descriptions of congressional records.
Ad hoc committee
A congressional committee established for a specific purpose with membership selected by the Speaker with the approval of the House. See clause 2(c) of Rule XII of the Rules of the House of Representatives.
Records created by a congressional office that are related to the management of the office, such as vouchers, travel arrangements, and personnel files.
Files ordered alphabetically.
A piece of legislation being considered by Congress. A “printed bill” is the official version printed by the Government Publishing Office. Also referred to as “legislation” or “measure.”
- H.R./S.: General legislation in the House of Representatives or Senate.
- H.Con.Res./S.Con.Res: A resolution dealing with internal matters of both chambers. A concurrent resolution must be passed by both chambers, but it is not signed into law by the President.
- H.J.Res./S.J.Res: A joint resolution of both chambers that is often used for commemorative purposes. Joint resolutions are signed by the president and have the force of law.
- H.Res./S.Res.: A simple resolution that affects only one chamber is typically related to housekeeping issues such as approving a rule for debate for a bill.
- P.L.: Public law. After a piece of legislation has passed both chambers and is signed by the President, it becomes a public law.
Files ordered by date.
A chronological listing of matters under consideration by the committee and their status. At the end of each session of congress, the committee publishes the calendar of its actions.
Materials printed for the committee, including legislation, studies commissioned by the committee, and statistical tables.
A detailed explanation of the committee’s legislative intent, or reasoning, when it recommends a measure. Reports detail the purpose and scope of a bill, the committee's findings and recommendations, and a statement estimating the potential costs or revenues resulting from its potential enactment.
Contains the daily transcript of legislative activity in the House and Senate. It includes a transcript of debate, bills introduced, committee reports filed, bills and amendments considered on the Floor, committee meetings or hearings held, and expected committee action, as well as some inserted material, called “extension of remarks.” There is a daily edition that is printed overnight and is a record of the prior day’s legislative activity, and the bound edition published at the end of a congress. The publication has changed names over time:
- Congressional Record: 1873–present
- Congressional Globe: 1833–1873
- Register of Debates: 1824–1837
- Annals of Congress: 1789–1824
A letter sent by a Member to other Members describing a piece of legislation and encouraging them to co-sponsor it.
A log of the matters the committee plans to consider.
Original messages to Congress from the President of the United States, or another official from the Executive Branch. They consist of letters, reports or other documents submitted by the President, Executive Officers of the President, Cabinet members, independent agencies, boards or commissions, executive departments or agencies, the Judicial Branch, the Legislative Branch or federally chartered private organizations.
Hearings are held by full committees or their subcommittees in order to gather information on a particular topic or piece of legislation. Hearings are also held to conduct oversight on an issue or agency under the committee’s jurisdiction.
A meeting of a committee or subcommittee during which the provisions of a bill are considered. Often, the text of the bill is “marked up” with changes before it moves to the next stage.
An appeal from an individual or group asking the House or Senate to oppose a measure or government practice.
A summary or notes of a committee or subcommittee meeting or hearing.
A request from an individual or group appealing to the House or Senate to act favorably on a proposal before the Chamber or to take steps to initiate action on a particular issue.
A president’s official communication to Congress. Presidential messages sometimes encourage Congress to pass a piece of legislation or provide a required report on a government program.
The section of the Rules of the House that deals specifically with official House records and details their treatment and access restrictions.
A congressional committee composed of Members chosen by the Speaker of the House. A select committee is usually established by a resolution that outlines its jurisdiction and tasks. Select committees typically investigate particular incidents and are not legislative, although some select committees have the authority to draft and report legislation. See clause 11 of Rule I and clause 10 of Rule X of the Rules of the House of Representatives.
Subject files are accumulated on a particular piece of legislation or oversight and investigation. They include background material, research, memos, and the like.
Official transcripts of hearings contain the verbatim comments of the Members of the committee, as well as those of the witnesses or other material submitted “for the record.”
Documents such as notes, drafts, and calculations that are created in the process of assembling another document, such as legislation or a report.