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Zimmerman's Research Guide


Congressional Hearings

You can look up the schedule for upcoming Senate hearings on the Senate Web site. The House posts its Committee Schedules.

For bibliographic purposes, Hearings can be "Published," "Unpublished" or "Oral Testimony." "Published" hearings are the prepared written testimony that witnesses submit when they are about to speak before a House or Senate committee. "Unpublished" hearings are formerly classified hearings that have since been de-classified. "Oral Testimony" is a recording or transcript of what people actually said at the hearing.

These types of materials will be discussed separately.

Published Hearings (i.e., prepared written testimony)

Finding Published Hearings: Here are some of the sources you can use to get copies of published Hearings.

1. Free Sites: The GPO posts selected Congressional Hearings from the 104th Congress (1995-96) to present. In addition, some hearings are posted by the Library of Congress, the U.S. Senate, the House of Representatives, various Congressional Committees, the University of New Orleans (starts 1964) and others. If that doesn't work, search with a good search engine and/or check out the web site of the witness' agency, office, company, etc.

2. Online Databases: Lexis has published hearings back to 1824 in three databases (LEGIS;CHDCA for 1824-1979; LEGIS;CHDCB for 1980-2003 and LEGIS;CHDCC for 2004-Present). Prepared testimony from congressional hearings is available on CQ back to 1994 and Westlaw back to July, 1993 (USTESTIMONY). The subscription-based ProQuest Congressional Hearings Digital Collection, available in some larger law libraries, has modules going back to 1824. The subscription-based U.S. Congressional Documents Collection on HeinOnline (which includes the legislative history collections of both Arnold & Porter and Covington & Burling) has hearings back to 1927.

3. The GPO Bookstore sells the Hearings published by the GPO. You can look up the Publications Available for Sale in the GPO's Online Bookstore. Alternatively, you can call the GPO Bookstore in Washington (202-512-1800).

4. Depository Libraries: The GPO donates Hearings to Federal Depository Libraries. You can make your own copies if you drop by your local Depository Library, or by ordering a copy from a Depository Library with a document delivery services. Depository Libraries across the U.S. are listed in the Federal Depository Library Directory.

For Hearings published since 1994, you look up the Hearing in the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications, scroll to the bottom of the record, click on "Locate Libraries" and then use the GPO's online Federal Locater Service to find exactly which Depository libraries hold the Hearing you need.

NOTE: To request a copy of a Hearing from a library, you may need the Superintendent of Document (SuDoc) number. You can get SuDoc numbers from most of the research tools listed in the Researching Published Hearings section of this entry, below.

5. Other Libraries: Many other libraries have Hearings because ...

* They get GPO publications even though they aren't Depository Libraries;

* They have CIS Congressional Committee Hearings on Microfiche; or

* They have compiled Federal legislative histories that include hearings.

If you don't know of a convenient library that has these materials, you can search for them by title using OCLC's WorldCat and/or a regional Union List or Catalog.

To get the title of a Hearing published by the GPO, use the research tools listed in the Researching Published Hearings section of this entry, below. To get the title of a legislative history check in Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories or just search on the name of the Public Law.

6. Congressional Information Service (CIS): You can order individual hearings by calling CIS (now part of LexisNexis) at 800-638-8380 with the title, date and CIS accession number. You can look up back accession numbers back to 1970 in the CIS Index to Congressional Publications and Public Laws.

7. Contact Congress: If you are stuck, you may want to call the House of Representatives' Legislative Resource Center (202-226-5200) or the Senate (202-224-7860). Maybe they can point you in a useful direction. If they have the Hearing, you could hire a document retrieval service to make a copy for you.

Researching Published Hearings: You can find Hearings relating to a particular subject -- or look up a SuDoc number or other bibliographic information -- using the following bibliographic tools.

1. The CIS/Index to Congressional Publications and Public Laws indexes most Congressional publications, including Hearings, published since 1970. The CIS/Index is available in print and on Lexis (LEGIS;CISINX).

Tip: It is often easier to use the CIS/Index online because you can search the whole thing at once. By comparison, the print version is published annually and, if you know the year you need, you have to look through the volumes year-by-year.

2. The CIS US Congressional Committee Hearings Index indexes hearings published from 1833-1969. The Index is published in hard copy and as part of CIS's Congressional Masterfile 1 CD-ROM.

3. GPO Online Hearings: The GPO lets you search hearings from 1997 to the current Congress on FDsys.

4. The Catalog of U.S. Government Publications lets you do keyword searches in its bibliographic records for Prints published since 1994. This can be a great no-cost way to look up Hearing titles, SuDoc numbers, publication dates, etc.

5. The GPO's Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications (MoCat) lists all government publications, and the annual index includes subject headings. The MoCat is the hard copy equivalent of the Internet Catalog discussed above, but it is a lot harder to use. On the other hand, I think it goes back to the end of the 19th Century.

6. Online Databases let you do sophisticated Boolean searching through the full text of Hearings. The CQ, Lexis and/or Westlaw databases discussed above can all help you find hearings, though they may not provide complete bibliographic information.

    STRATEGY:If you don't have access to the print sources, and the electronic alternatives won't do the trick, you can call a depository library with a research service (e.g., the New York Public Library) and ask them to do the research for you.

Unpublished Hearings

"Unpublished" hearings are formerly classified hearings that have since been de-classified. CIS indexes these Hearings and publishes the Hearings as well as the index. CIS covers "Unpublished" House hearings from 1833 to 1976 and Senate hearings from 1823 to 1984, per the Proquest website. You can look these up in CIS's indexes for Unpublished House and Senate Hearings. Then buy the hearing from CIS (800-638-8380) or find a library that orders these hearings from CIS. Unpublished hearing are also available through the LexisNexis Congressional Hearings Digital Collection.

Oral Testimony (Transcripts)

Transcripts of oral testimony from selected hearings are prepared by the Federal News Service and CQRollCall.

Federal News Service transcripts are available by subscription to the Federal New Service website. Some FNS transcripts are available on Westlaw, 2010-present (FEDNSUS). FNS will create transcripts on demand for hearings that have not created in the normal course of business.

CQ transcripts from 1995 are available through Lexis (LEGIS;POLTRN), or as an add-on subscription to CQ.com. CQ transcripts are prepared in 1 to 3 days, and subscribers can custom order transcripts of hearings that would not otherwise have been covered. There is a 48 hour embargo period before CQ transcripts appear on Lexis. CQ will create create transcripts on-demand for existing customers who don't have the add-on subscription, though they are pricey.

Westlaw has hearing transcripts mixed with other transcripts originally created by Roll Call (now CQRollCall) in their USPOLTRANS database (February 1994-present) and in their CONGTMY database (highly selective from 1993-1995, with substantially broader coverage for 1996-present).

If you subscribe, Bloomberg Law has transcripts from both CQ and FNS. Go to the "Legal News and Analysis" tab, choose "Search News" and then in the "Sources" box choose (a) Federal News Service, (b) Congressional Quarterly Transcripts and (c) Political Transcript Wire.

Also, many Federal government agencies post transcripts free on their websites (State Department, FDA, SEC, etc.). Also check the website of the relevant committee.

If the testimony you want isn't available as a transcript, you can try to get a recording of the hearing (see below) and have the recording transcribed.

Video and Audio Recordings

Recordings of some hearings are posted free on Congressional Committee web sites.

C-Span televises selected Congressional Committee Hearings. For a schedule of upcoming programs, visit the C-Span Web site. To get recordings, search the C-SPAN Video Library, which has programs back to 1986.

See Also
Congressional Debates
Federal Legislative History

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman