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U.S. Congress

U.S. Congress


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Library of Congress

The Library of Congress, housed in three buildings on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., is the research library of the U.S. It’s also the largest library in the world, with a collection of more than 170 ...read more

How We Got National Monuments

In 1872, Yellowstone became the first U.S. national park, and it earned this status the same way new parks still do today: First Congress passed legislation declaring it a national park, and then the president (at the time, Ulysses S. Grant) signed it into law. But by 1906, the ...read more

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of speech—the right to express opinions without government restraint—is a democratic ideal that dates back to ancient Greece. In the United States, the First Amendment guarantees free speech, though the United States, like all modern democracies, places limits on this ...read more

First Amendment

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the freedom of speech, religion and the press. It also protects the right to peaceful protest and to petition the government. The amendment was adopted in 1791 along with nine other amendments that make up the Bill of Rights ...read more

Second Amendment

The Second Amendment, often referred to as the right to bear arms, is one of 10 amendments that form the Bill of Rights, ratified in 1791 by the U.S. Congress. Differing interpretations of the amendment have fueled a long-running debate over gun control legislation and the ...read more

Three Branches of Government

The three branches of the U.S. government are the legislative, executive and judicial branches. According to the doctrine of separation of powers, the U.S. Constitution distributed the power of the federal government among these three branches, and built a system of checks and ...read more

Veto

The veto power of the U.S. president is one way of preventing the legislative branch of the federal government from exercising too much power. The U.S. Constitution gives the president the power to veto, or reject, legislation that has been passed by Congress. What Does Veto ...read more

Legislative Branch

The legislative branch of the federal government, composed primarily of the U.S. Congress, is responsible for making the country’s laws. The members of the two houses of Congress—the House of Representatives and the Senate—are elected by the citizens of the United States. Powers ...read more

How We Got Social Security Numbers

Social Security numbers serve as sort of a national ID for American citizens, but it wasn’t always that way. When economist Edwin Witte helped develop the Social Security Act of 1935, the numbers were solely a way to keep track of the new retirement payment system. Witte and his ...read more

Filibuster

A filibuster is a political strategy in which a senator speaks—or threatens to speak—for hours on end to delay efforts to vote for a bill. The unusual tactic takes advantage of a U.S. Senate rule that says a senator, once recognized on the floor, may speak on an issue without ...read more

House of Representatives

The U.S. House of Representatives is the lower house of Congress and plays a vital role, along with the Senate, in the process of moving proposed legislation to law. The bicameral relationship between the two bodies is vital to the American system of checks and balances that the ...read more

Senate

The United States Senate is the upper house of the legislative branch of the federal government, with the House of Representatives referred to as the lower house. In the United States, the terms “upper” and “lower” house are not literal; they date back to a time in the 1780s ...read more

Aaron Burr’s Notorious Treason Case

In the summer of 1807, the city of Richmond, Virginia, played host to one of the most remarkable trials in early American history. The case involved several legal luminaries, but its undisputed star was the defendant, 51-year-old Aaron Burr. The New Jersey native had only ...read more

6 Famous Congressional Investigations

1. Delving into an Early Army Disaster On November 4, 1791, some 900 U.S. army troops under the command of Gen. Arthur St. Clair, a Revolutionary War veteran, were killed or wounded in a surprise attack by Native American warriors on the Ohio frontier. The following year, in ...read more

The Strange Saga of the 27th Amendment

There’s nothing particularly extraordinary about the content of the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. In full, it stipulates that, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives ...read more

7 Things You May Not Know About Jeannette Rankin

1. She struggled to find her calling. After graduating with a degree in biology from the newly opened University of Montana, located in her hometown of Missoula, Rankin got a job as a schoolteacher. But she quickly grew bored and restless, quitting only to find herself equally ...read more

5 Formerly Enslaved People Turned Statesmen

Blanche K. Bruce The son of an enslaved black woman and her white master, Blanche Bruce grew up a house servant on plantations in Virginia, Mississippi and Missouri. He had a privileged upbringing by slave standards and was permitted to study with a private tutor, but when the ...read more

Bill of Rights passes Congress

The first Congress of the United States approves 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution, and sends them to the states for ratification. The amendments, known as the Bill of Rights, were designed to protect the basic rights of U.S. citizens, guaranteeing the freedom of speech, ...read more


U.S. Congress - HISTORY

The First Federal Congress

“Scarcely a day passes without some striking evidence of the delays and perplexities springing merely from the want of precedents. ”

Representative James Madison to Edmund Randolph, May 31, 1789

The Congress of the United States established by the new Constitution met for the first time at New York City’s Federal Hall on March 4, 1789. It is arguably the most important Congress in U.S. history. To this new legislature fell the responsibility of passing all the legislation needed to implement the new system, solving the difficult political questions left by the Constitutional Convention, setting up the rules and procedures of the House and Senate, and establishing the roles of its officers such as Speaker of the House and President of the Senate.

Most actions of the First Congress broke new ground. The first law passed set oaths of office not only for Congress but for state legislators, Federal executive officers, and state and Federal judges. Other early legislation raised revenues by setting duties on imported goods established the Departments of State, War, and Treasury (and a temporary post office department) created a Federal judiciary set compensation for government officials provided for lighthouses authorized expenses for negotiating with Indian tribes and reenacted the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. At the end of the first session, an attempt to locate a capital-or seat of government-failed.

Serving in Congress in the 18th century was a distinct honor, but also a hardship. Traveling between home states and New York City or Philadelphia, where Congress met between 1785 and 1800, could be arduous. Living in these cities, while stimulating, was expensive and congressmen received pay of only $6 a day. It also meant several months of each year living away from livelihood and usually from family. During the 1790s, one-third of the members of the Senate resigned while in office.


U.S. Congress: History and Turning Points

2006-11-23T13:12:24-05:00 https://images.c-span.org/Files/e76/194806-m.jpg In a National Archives &ldquoAmerican Conversation,&rdquo archivist Weinstein and historian Remini talked about the history and turning points of the U.S. Congress. Mr. Remini wrote the recently-published book, The House. After their discussion they responded to audience members' questions.

This program marked the grand reopening of the William G. McGowan Theater, which closed due to severe flood damage in June, 2006.

In a National Archives “American Conversation,” archivist Weinstein and historian Remini talked about the history and turning points of the… read more

In a National Archives &ldquoAmerican Conversation,&rdquo archivist Weinstein and historian Remini talked about the history and turning points of the U.S. Congress. Mr. Remini wrote the recently-published book, The House. After their discussion they responded to audience members' questions.

This program marked the grand reopening of the William G. McGowan Theater, which closed due to severe flood damage in June, 2006. close


The Ten Worst Members of the Worst Congress Ever

The flag waves in front of the U.S. Capitol building in Washington.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

This story is from the November 2, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone.

The Highway Robber: Dennis Hastert (R-Ill)

Hastert could well be the weakest House speaker in history. Tapped by Tom DeLay to serve as the mild-mannered frontman for the GOP leadership, the former wrestling coach ceded most of his power to the now-disgraced majority leader, allowing Republicans to treat the Capitol as their private piggy bank. Last year, Hastert got in on the action himself, secretly inserting $207 million into the budget for the “Prairie Parkway” &ndash a highway that will speed development of 210 acres he owns in Illinois. Before the year was out, Hastert sold part of his land &ndash soon to be the site of a sprawling subdivision &ndash for a profit of $2 million.

“Here’s a guy who saw a chance to profit from his official acts and took it,” says Bill Allison, who uncovered the late-night earmark as a senior analyst for the Sunlight Foundation, a nonpartisan watchdog group. “Most of us aren’t speaker of the House, and most of us don’t have a $200 million earmark running through our back yard. Hastert does, and he made a fortune from it.”

The speaker at least functions as a bipartisan defender of congressional corruption. In February 2005, he purged the chairman of the House Ethics Committee for daring to admonish DeLay. And after Rep. William Jefferson’s offices were raided by the FBI last spring, it was Hastert who lodged the strongest protest on the Louisiana Democrat’s behalf.

Hastert is especially good at turning a blind eye to scandal: An aide says the speaker’s office knew about Rep. Mark Foley’s penchant for page boys three years ago, yet Hastert took no action to protect minors working for Congress.

In another secret budget deal, Hastert and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist joined forces last December to give the pharmaceutical industry a Christmas gift worth billions. After the “final” version of the defense budget emerged from conference, the duo added a provision that gives drug makers immunity from liability lawsuits &ndash shielding them from claims that their mercury-laden vaccines sparked the current autism epidemic.

The Dictator: James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.)

No politician better embodies the zealotry of the 109th Congress than Sensenbrenner, chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee. His solution to hot-button issues is always the same: Lock ’em up. Sensenbrenner has proposed legislation that would turn 12 million undocumented immigrants into felons, subject any adult selling a joint to a teenager to at least ten years in prison, and incarcerate college kids for failing to narc on their hallmates. He also wants to prosecute anyone who utters an obscenity on the air. Big fines just aren’t tough enough for indecent broadcasts: As Sensenbrenner told a group of cable executives last year, “I’d prefer using the criminal process rather than the regulatory process.”

In addition to his assault on free speech, Sensenbrenner has also played a major role in curtailing civil liberties. He was the lead House sponsor of the Patriot Act, which gives the government broad powers to spy on Americans. Although the measure was intended to stop terrorists, Sensenbrenner insists it should also be used in routine criminal cases.

Sensenbrenner’s iron-fisted rule of the judiciary committee was on nationwide display last year during a televised debate over reauthorization of the Patriot Act. When Democrats began discussing the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo, the chairman abruptly ended the meeting and cut off their microphones. When Democrats refused to leave the room, Sensenbrenner’s staff pulled the plug on C-Span and turned out the lights. As The Daily Show host Jon Stewart put it, “He literally took his gavel and went home.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Sensenbrenner’s abuse of power “disgraceful.” But Democrats should take heart: The GOP chairman is an equal-opportunity bully. “He treats us all equally,” says Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.). “He treats us all like dogs.”

Sensenbrenner, whose $10 million fortune stems from his great-grandfather’s invention of the Kotex sanitary napkin, won $250,000 in the lottery in 1997. He also enjoys the perks of office: No congressman has racked up more frequent-flier miles on junkets sponsored by corporate lobbyists. While he was enjoying the good life last year, Sensenbrenner took time out to make life tougher on working families, winning approval for a bill that makes it harder for Americans overwhelmed by debt to declare bankruptcy. The congressman refused to consider an exemption from the bill’s restrictions for victims of Hurricane Katrina &ndash and even voted against the aid package designed to help them recover from the disaster.

Mr. Pork: Don Young (R-Alaska)

Powerful enough to earn the moniker “Alaska’s Third Senator,” this seventeen-term congressman and former tugboat captain knows how to haul home the bacon. Thanks in no small part to his efforts, Alaskans receive $1.87 in federal funds for every dollar they contribute in taxes. Last year, Young leveraged his post as chairman of the House Transportation Committee to stuff the highway bill &ndash “like a turkey,” in his own words &ndash with nearly $1 billion in pork-barrel projects for his home state.

More than $400 million of the money was earmarked for two separate “bridges to nowhere.” One, nearly as long as the Golden Gate, would serve an island community of only fifty people. The second, a monument to waste known as “Don Young’s Way,” would connect Anchorage to a patch of scarcely habitable marshland.

“These two bridges are the most egregious example of government waste we’ve ever seen,” says Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. Even the conservative Heritage Foundation called one of Young’s bridges a “national embarrassment.” But the congressman refused to scrap the projects. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, when Sen. John McCain proposed that Young redirect his prized pork money to help rebuild New Orleans, Young accused his detractors of “ignorance and stupidity.” The victims of Katrina, he suggested, “can kiss my ear!”

Such coarseness is a Young hallmark. He once called environmentalists a “self-centered bunch of waffle-stomping, Harvard-graduating, intellectual idiots” who “are not Americans, never have been Americans, never will be Americans.” And during a debate on the right of native Alaskans to sell the sex organs of endangered animals as aphrodisiacs, Young whipped out the eighteen-inch penis bone of a walrus and brandished it like a sword on the House floor.

As for his pork projects, Young &ndash who tried his hand at gold mining in Alaska before realizing that the real riches lay in Congress &ndash apparently feels no shame. When someone suggested that Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska had outdone him in bringing home federal dollars, Young just laughed. “If he’s the chief porker,” the congressman said, “I’m upset.”

The Bribe Taker: William Jefferson (D-LA.)

While his constituents back home were still reeling from the worst natural disaster in U.S. history, Jefferson was lining his own pockets in Washington. In May, the FBI raided his office after the Louisiana Democrat was caught accepting $100,000 in bribes &ndash most of which was later discovered in Jefferson’s freezer. Vernon Jackson, the CEO of iGate, was sentenced to seven years for bribing Jefferson to push the tech company’s products on the U.S. Army.

Democrats didn’t fully abandon their most self-serving member. The party hosted a fund-raiser for Jefferson in March, long after it was clear he was under investigation. When he was busted, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi did force Jefferson to give up his seat on the Ways and Means Committee &ndash but then joined House Speaker Dennis Hastert in denouncing the FBI’s raid on Jefferson’s office as “unconstitutional.”

Equally shameful were Jefferson’s antics after Katrina struck: He commandeered a Coast Guard helicopter to gather personal effects from his home in New Orleans &ndash at a time when his constituents were literally drowning in their attics. Yet despite his unethical behavior, Jefferson is cruising to re-election. “In Louisiana, they have a long tradition of corruption &ndash a Huey Long tradition,” says Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

The King of Payoffs: Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.)

Aside from future jailbird William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, the sitting congressman most likely to be indicted is Lewis. As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Lewis oversees nearly $900 billion a year in federal spending &ndash but anyone looking for a slice of that money has to deal with his best friend, lobbyist Bill Lowery. “If you want an earmark from Lewis, you have to hire Lowery,” says Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. “There’s a direct exchange.” In return for the business, Lowery and his clients made more than $480,000 in contributions to Lewis &ndash more than a third of the congressman’s total campaign money since 2000. Lowery’s firm, in turn, tripled its revenue to $5 million &ndash and his clients pocketed hundreds of millions in federal pork projects from Lewis.

The revolving door spins so fast between Lewis and Lowery that their offices operate almost as a single machine to swap taxpayer dollars for corporate donations. Jeffrey Shockey, who worked as a staffer for Lewis, left to join Lowery’s firm &ndash and then returned to work for Lewis as deputy chief of staff of appropriations. As a parting gift, Lowery hired Shockey’s wife as a lobbyist and gave him nearly $2 million &ndash a down payment on the firm’s future earnings. Another Lewis staffer, now a Lowery partner, does such brisk business with her old boss that she’s known as “K Street’s Queen of Earmarks.” Even Brent Wilkes &ndash the defense contractor whose payoffs sent Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham to prison earlier this year &ndash has complained about the shakedown operation. “If you don’t want to make the contributions,” Wilkes recalls Lowery telling him, “you will get left behind.” Wilkes also claimed that Lowery threatened to cut him off from Lewis and his lucrative earmarks unless he forked over $25,000 a month in lobbying fees.

Lewis, a former insurance salesman elected to Congress in 1978, has long tapped corporate interests for campaign cash: In one of his early races, all of his money came from just forty-three donors &ndash and twenty-two of them were lobbyists.

The FBI has issued ten subpoenas involving Lewis’ current operation, and Lowery’s firm has scurried to report more than $2 million in undisclosed income. The lobbyist, in fact, is an old hand at the abuse of public trust: A former congressman himself, Lowery lost his House seat in 1992 thanks to an ethics scandal. The man who beat him? None other than Duke Cunningham.

Mr. Bigotry: Tom Tancredo (R-Colo.)

The House Immigration Reform Caucus certainly has its share of hard-core xenophobes: One member, Rep. Steve King of lowa, calls illegal immigration a “terrorist attack on the United States” and wants to erect an electrified fence to control Mexicans like livestock. But the founder of the caucus &ndash and the undisputed king of Republican bigotry &ndash is Tancredo, a dark-horse presidential contender for 2008. “He’s got the best track record in Congress,” raves Gordon Baum, head of the Council for Conservative Citizens, a “pro-white” group that lauds Tancredo for protecting America from a “full-scale invasion” of Latin immigrants.

Elected to the House in 1998, Tancredo has not only led the fight to deport every undocumented worker in America &ndash a proposal that would cost at least $200 billion &ndash but has called for halting all immigration, legal and otherwise. In one unforgettable move, Tancredo wanted to deport the family of an undocumented high school boy who was profiled in The Denver Post for his perfect grades.

The grandson of Italian immigrants, Tancredo traces his interest in politics to the eighth grade, when he played Fidel Castro in a class assignment. He urges America to reject “the siren song of multiculturalism” and depicts Islam as “a civilization bent on destroying ours.” In September, when Pope Benedict XVI sparked riots by condemning Islam as “evil,” Tancredo urged him not to apologize. Even the right has noted his unbridled looniness on the subject: In July, when Tancredo proposed that America respond to any future terrorist attack by bombing Mecca and other holy sites, the National Review came to an unavoidable conclusion: “Tom Tancredo is an idiot.”

Enemy of the Earth: Dick Pombo (R-Calif.)

No member of Congress has worked harder to savage America’s natural resources than Pombo, a Stetson-wearing cattleman who ran for office after a nature trail was slated to run through his family’s 500-acre ranch. As chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo has waged a career-long campaign to abolish the Endangered Species Act, which he accuses of putting “rats and shellfish” before people. Last year he almost succeeded: His comically titled “Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act” would have phased out all protection for threatened wildlife by 2015. Pombo has also won passage of bills to eliminate habitat protections on 150 million acres of wilderness and to lift a quarter-century moratorium on offshore oil drilling.

“Dick Pombo is the most dangerous member of the House,” says Carl Pope of the Sierra Club. “There’s no one who represents the threat to our public lands that he does.”

But Pombo doesn’t let his environmental attacks get in the way of his own profit: He raked in $35,000 from clients of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and paid his own wife and brother $357,000 for dubious campaign services. That’s a quarter of every dollar raised by his political action committee &ndash known, aptly enough, as Rich PAC.

The Conspiracy Nut: Curt Weldon (R-PA.)

Weldon might be laughed off as a harmless crank if he weren’t vice chair of the House Armed Services Committee. When he doesn’t like the intelligence he hears from America’s spy agencies, he makes up some of his own. He continues to insist that Saddam Hussein had WMDs &ndash and smuggled them to Syria prior to the U.S. invasion. He promotes the moonbat theory that a Special Forces unit called “Able Danger” flagged three 9/11 hijackers prior to the attack on the Twin Towers &ndash a flight of fancy discredited by the 9/11 Commission. He even developed his own super-secret source &ndash code named “Ali” &ndash to provide him with intelligence on Iran. The problem was, Ali turned out to be a pal of Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iran-Contra go-between rejected by the CIA for fabricating intelligence.

“Curt Weldon has outlived his usefulness to the country,” says House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. “He’s seeing ghosts and conspiracies.”

A former fire chief who speaks fluent Russian, Weldon was instrumental in keeping Ronald Reagan’s fantasy of a missile-defense system alive during the Clinton years. But Weldon isn’t just crazy. “He’s one of the slimiest members of Congress,” says Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Companies with business before Weldon’s committees have directed $1 million in lobbying deals to his daughter and sponsored his son’s race-car operation.

Weldon also has an ugly streak that would make Karl Rove blush. During his current re-election campaign, he criticized his opponent, retired Vice Adm. Joe Sestak, for seeking treatment for his daughter’s brain tumor at a hospital outside of Pennsylvania. “Using my daughter’s illness for political purposes,” Sestak responds, “is simply beyond the pale.”

Homeland Security Hog: Hal Rogers (R-KY.)

No congressman has single-handedly put America at greater risk than Rogers. As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security, he has placed the interests of his own district ahead of defending the nation from Al Qaeda, prompting even the archconservative National Review to call him a “congressional disgrace.”

Since the 9/11 attacks, Rogers has abused his position to steer production of a system designed to enhance airport security to a factory in Corbin, Kentucky. The trouble is, the factory wasn’t equipped to produce the tamperproof biometric ID cards favored by security experts. So Rogers forced the government to spend $4 million to test the factory’s technology &ndash steering some of the work to a tiny company that hired his son. When the factory flunked the test, Rogers delayed the process again, demanding that prototypes for new cards be built in Kentucky.

Rogers also steered a no-bid contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars to a trade group with no relevant experience in airport security &ndash after the group paid for Rogers to take six trips to Hawaii and one to Ireland. “It’s as if he grabbed people off the street and said, ‘Hey, would you manage a critical homeland-security program? No experience required,'” says Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste.

Complaints by experienced contractors ultimately forced Rogers to open the project to competitive bidding &ndash further delaying the improvements to airport security until next year at the earliest.

The Queen of Gay Bashing: Marilyn Musgrave (R-Colo.)

Musgrave has made regulating the bedroom behavior of her fellow Americans the focus of her entire career. An evangelical Christian who married her Bible-camp sweetheart, Musgrave does not believe in the separation of church and state. She entered politics in 1990, running for her local school board on a crusade to end sex education as part of the curriculum. By the time her tenure was over, the schools taught “abstinence only” &ndash and offending passages in health textbooks had been blacked out. During her eight years in the Colorado legislature, Musgrave continued her moralizing, overcoming two vetoes by the governor to pass a state ban on gay marriage.

Once in Congress, Musgrave introduced a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage &ndash which she calls “the most important issue that we face today” &ndash nearly a year before a Massachusetts court approved civil unions. “She doesn’t like the idea of one gay person,” says Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts. “So obviously the idea of two of us hanging out makes her very unhappy.” For her opposition to gay marriage &ndash as well as her push to legalize concealed weapons &ndash Musgrave received an endorsement from the KKK in May.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi doesn’t consider Musgrave’s move to rewrite the nation’s founding document a laughing matter. “She is trying to taint the Constitution,” Pelosi says. “That is a violation of the oath of office.” But Frank notes one thing he admires about Musgrave: “If you’re going to have someone who’s a hater, it’s best that she’s not very bright. I appeared with her in a couple of forums to debate her bill, but she’s totally incapable of even explaining what it says.”

This story is from the November 2, 2006 issue of Rolling Stone.


Did you know .

  • The federal government adopted a policy of "peace and purchase" with the tribes, meaning the government would acquire Native American lands through peaceful purchases through treaties. The national leaders did not consider the possibility that the Native Americans would resist selling their lands and would often rather fight than give up the land for money.
  • It was assumed that cession (surrender) of Native American lands was inevitable. U.S. leaders thought that as frontier settlements crowded the boundaries of Native American country, the increasing scarcity of game and native foods would make the Native Americans want to sell their lands and move farther west, away from white settlers. , who was Washington's secretary of war and in charge of Native American relations, was also the secretary of war under the Confederation during the mid-1780s, when harsher policies toward the Native Americans failed.

Library Resources for Administrative History

House and Senate reports are the designated class of publications by which congressional committees formally report and make recommendations to the Senate or House as a whole concerning their findings and deliberations regarding specific pieces of legislation, or their investigative or oversight activities.

Reports are assigned individual sequential serial numbers within each house for each Congress, and are publicly distributed as part of the official U.S. Serial Set record of each Congress.

House and Senate documents, like reports, are officially numbered in a serial manner for inclusion in the U.S. Serial Set, and function as a major historical record or each Congress. Documents include texts of various executive communications to Congress, executive agencies' annual or special reports to Congress, accounts of committee activities and committee-sponsored special studies, and a miscellany of publications such as ceremonial tributes to individuals or reports of patriotic organizations.

The "reports", "documents", and the Journals (through 1952) are issued in a "collected edition" known as the Serial Set or Congressional Edition, or before 1907 as the "sheepbound edition". The term "serial set" derives from the fact that the volumes have been numbered consecutively beginning with the volumes of the 15th Congress. The set contains a vast amount of valuable information, much of it bearing on administrative history. Congress requires many reports and studies on Government functions. Many of these, in addition to annual reports made for the executive branch, are transmitted to Congress and ordered printed. A key to the serial numbers of the volumes and their contents is found in early indexes to and catalogs of Federal publications already noted and also in five special indexes.

Although not part of the original serial numbering scheme, a publication of records from the early Congresses was numbered 001-038 when shelved in the Public Documents Library and has since generally been considered a part of the Serial Set.

This publication, the American State Papers, was privately produced under congressional authority between 1832 and 1861. It included records that were previously available only in manuscript, as well as printed executive and legislative documents. The series covers a period starting at 1789 and ending with dates varying between 1823 and 1838.

The serial set is located in the Center for Legislative Archives at Archives 1 (1789-1979) and the National Archives Library (1980- ), and at Archives II in the Library on microfiche (1789-1969) and in hard cover (vol. 12881, 91st Congress, 1970 to date)

1789-present Congressional Information Service. CIS Online Thesaurus of Index Terms Bethesda, MD: Congressional Information Service, Inc. c.1982. 1 v. (loose- leaf) KF 49 C62
The CIS thesaurus was developed as a CIS internal working tool to aid in indexing the body of material published by the U.S. Congress, but is helpful to users of the CIS Masterfiles 1 and 2 for determining terms used and related terms, since a thesaurus is not available on the CD-ROM itself.

Congressional Information Service. CIS U.S. Serial Set Index 1789-1969. Washington: Congressional Information Service, Inc. 1975-1979. 12 parts in 36 volumes. REF Z1223-Z9C65.part (nos.) and volume (nos.)
See also: Congressional Masterfile 1
Each part consists of an alphabetical index of title-derived subjects and names, with a separate alphabetical index of individuals or organizations cited in reports or relief bills. Also included is a complete list of all titles in report or document number order, and a list of volumes in serial set number order. For each entry, full series data is given, including Congress Session document type volume, report or document, and serial set number. In addition to series data, titles are given under each heading in the subject index. This work is updated by the CIS Index.

1817-1969 Congressional Information Service. CIS Index to U.S. Senate Executive Documents and Reports Covering Documents and Reports not Covered in the U.S. Serial Set, 1817-1969. Washington: Congressional Information Service, Inc. c1987. 2 vol. REF KF 40 C57 1987
See also: Congressional Masterfile 1

1817-1893 U.S. Superintendent of Documents. Tables of and Annotated Index to the Congressional Series of U.S. Public Documents. Washington: Government Printing Office 1902. 769 p. REF GP 3.2:P 96
Covers the Serial Set from the 15th through the 52d Congress. Includes an author, title, and subject index for important documents. Reprinted in 1963 by Mark Press. The Tables are also in the 1909 Checklist and the CIS Serial Set Index.
Boyd, p. 41 Morehead, p. 78 Schmeckebier, p. 33-34.

1895-1933 U.S. Superintendent of Documents. Index to the Reports and Documents of the 54th Congress, 1st Session to 72d Congress, 2d Session December 2, 1895-March 4, 1933, with Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes. Washington: Government Printing Office 1897- 1933.43 volumes. REF GP 3. 7:volumes 1-43.(Shelved with REF Z1223-Z9C65, U.S. Serial Set Index, Room 3000, Archives II)
Note: Cited as the Documents Index. This continues the Tables of and Annotated Index. The Documents Index is the "consolidated index" provided for by the act of January 12, 1895. The title varied but it was commonly known as the Document Index. It was an alphabetical subject index to current publications in the Serial Set. A Joint Committee on Printing ruling discontinued this "Documents Index" but continued parts of it in the Numerical Lists and Schedules of Volumes of the Reports and Documents of the 73d Congress.
Boyd, p. 42 Morehead, p. 79 Schmeckebier, p. 20-22 1909 Checklist, p. 418.

1933-1982 U.S. Superintendent of Documents. Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes of the Reports of the 73d Congress to 96th Congress. Washington: Government Printing Office 1933-1982. REF GP 3. 712: 72-96. (Shelved with REF Z1223-Z9C65, CIS U.S. Serial Set Index, Room 3000, Archives II)
Note: Cited as the Numerical List. With the discontinuance of the Documents Index this section of its contents has been issued as a separate publication for each session of Congress. Continues the numerical list of reports and documents and a schedule of volumes giving the serial numbers does not provide an index to the contents of the documents. Preceded by Index to the Reports and Documents of the 54th Congress, 1st Session to 72d Congress, 2d session, December 2, 1895-March 4, 1933, with Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes.
Boyd, p. 42 Morehead, p. 80Schmeckebier, p. 22.

1983-1984 U.S. Superintendent of Documents. United States Congressional Serial Set Catalog: Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes 98th Congress: 1983-1984, Entries and Indexes. Washington: Government Printing Office 1988. REF GP 3.34:
Through the 96th Congress, this index had been issued as the Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes. In 1985, the title for the records of the 97th Congress was changed to Monthly Catalog-- U.S. Congressional Serial Set Supplement and made part of the Monthly Catalog. The catalog was prepared using the OCLC bibliographic records which originally appeared in various issues of the Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications. In 1988 the title was changed to United States Congressional Serial Set Catalog: Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes 981h Congress: 1983-1984, Entries and Indexes. Continues the Numerical Lists and Schedule of Volumes.

1970-present Congressional Information Service. Congressional Masterfile 2: CIS/Index Congressional Database on CD-ROM 1970-present.Washington: Congressional Information Service, Inc. c.1993. 2 CD-ROMs. Archives 2 Room 3000 (Library Reference Desk)
Indexes Congressional Hearings, Committee prints, House and Senate Reports and Documents, Senate Executive Reports, and Executive and Treaty Documents. Also provides abstracts and indexing for Public Laws, and includes legislative history records with references to all Congressional publications that are part of the law's legislative history, except that, "beginning in 1984, purely technical and ceremonial laws have been omitted."
The CD-ROM should be used in conjunction with the CIS Online Thesaurus of Index Terms.

1995 - to present

Selected recent Congressional reports and documents can also be found at GPO Access search gateways.


The term wave election is frequently used to describe an election cycle in which one party makes significant electoral gains. How many seats would Republicans have had to lose for the 2018 midterm election to be considered a wave election?

Ballotpedia examined the results of the 50 election cycles that occurred between 1918 and 2016—spanning from President Woodrow Wilson's (D) second midterm in 1918 to Donald Trump's (R) first presidential election in 2016. We define wave elections as the 20 percent of elections in that period resulting in the greatest seat swings against the president's party.

Applying this definition to four different election groups (U.S. Senate, U.S. House, governorships, and state legislatures) yields specific numbers of seats that Republicans needed to lose for 2018 to qualify as a wave election. Those are:

  • 48 U.S. House seats,
  • Seven U.S. Senate seats,
  • Seven gubernatorial seats, or
  • 494 state legislative seats.

The midterm election results in 2018 met those levels in one category, as Democrats gained seven governorships. In congressional elections, Democrats had a net gain of 40 U.S. House seats while Republicans actually gained a net total of two U.S. Senate seats. The total number of state legislative seats which changed hands in 2018 has not yet been finalized due to races which have not yet been decided.


Introduction of the Gag Rule

The committee met for several months to come up with a way to suppress the petitions. In May 1836 the committee produced the following resolution, which served to completely silence any discussion of enslavement:

On May 25, 1836, during a heated Congressional debate on the proposal to silence any talk of enslavement, Congressman John Quincy Adams tried to take the floor. Speaker James K. Polk refused to recognize him and called on other members instead.

Adams eventually got a chance to speak but was quickly challenged and told the points he wished to make were not debatable.

As Adams tried to speak, he was interrupted by Speaker Polk. A newspaper in Amherst, Massachusetts, The Farmer’s Cabinet, on June 3, 1836 issue, reported on the anger shown by Adams in the May 25, 1836 debate:

That question posed by Adams would become famous.

And when the resolution to suppress talk of enslavement passed the House, Adams received his answer. He was indeed gagged. And no talk of enslavement would be allowed on the floor of the House of Representatives.


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