Monday, January 5, 2009

Better Know A Congress

The 111th Congress (or “The Fightin’ 111th”, for Stephen Colbert fans) will convene for the first time at noon on January 6. This Congress will meet for two yearlong “sessions” before adjourning at the end of 2010.

Although the seats of two potential senators remain in dispute (comedian Al Franken, whose election was the subject of a hotly-contested recount in Minnesota; and Roland Burris, appointed by disgraced Illinois Governor Ron Blagojevich to fill President-elect Obama’s vacant Senate seat), you can get to know the other new additions to Congress in the New Member Pictorial Directory (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/pictorial/111th/newmems.html). Congresspersons whose tenure continues from the 110th Congress can be searched in the Guide to House and Senate Members (http://www.memberguide.gpoaccess.gov), which has not yet been updated for the 111th Congress.

So what’s on the legislative agenda? THOMAS (http://thomas.loc.gov/), a service of the Library of Congress, should always be your first stop for congressional research. THOMAS provides schedules and calendars for the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the text and current status of all introduced and enacted bills.

The U.S. Government Printing Office also hosts a treasure trove of congressional materials at GPO Access (http://www.gpoaccess.gov/legislative.html). Available resources from the legislative branch include the Congressional Record (debates on the floor of both chambers), committee reports on pending legislation, procedural materials, and hearing transcripts.

The Washington Post maintains a free database of voting records, U.S. Congress Votes, at http://projects.washingtonpost.com/congress/?nid=roll_housesenvote. The database offers a number of RSS feeds to track votes by a particular member or related to particular bills.

For commentary and analysis on the current Congress, members of the Duke community can also access CQ Weekly (http://library.duke.edu/metasearch/db/id/DUK01155), a publication from Congressional Quarterly. The “Weekly Report” feature summarizes the latest happenings in Congress, and alerts are available via e-mail.

For additional web resources, check out the library's Federal Legal Links page.

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