Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Congress.gov Overview

What is Congress.gov?

Congress.gov is the official website for U.S. federal legislative information. This modern, integrated system provides accurate, timely, and complete legislative information to Congress and the public. More About Congress.gov.

What's next for Congress.gov?

Additional content and functionality continue to be phased in. Coverage Dates for Legislative Information specifies data collections that are coming soon.

For what time periods does Congress.gov have legislative information?

Data are usually updated the morning after a session adjourns. The start date for bill records is 1973, bill texts is 1993, and the Congressional Record is 1995. See Coverage Dates for Legislative Information for the update schedule and collection coverage dates.

Which years are associated with a particular Congress?

The Congresses field value list associates congress numbers with years. Each Congress (i.e., 2-year time-frame) since the 93rd Congress (1973-1974) is a filter and searchable field in Congress.gov.

How can I make suggestions or report problems to Congress.gov?

Use the Give Feedback survey link located on the top right of every page to access a short user survey. These surveys are considered carefully and used in plans for future features or improvements to Congress.gov.

Learn Congress.gov and the Legislative Process

Where can I get help with my search?

For self-guided instruction on how to search Congress.gov collections, review the Search Tools Overview.

Where can I get Congress.gov training?

The Law Library of Congress offers webinar and in-person orientation overviews of Congress.gov. The focus of the orientation is searching legislation and the Congressional member information attached to the legislation, and also to highlight new Congress.gov features. To register, sign up in person in the Law Library Reading Room (LM201), call 202-707-9801, or complete the Seminar Form.

Where can I learn about The Legislative Process?

The Legislative Process is a set of nine videos that explain the common legislative stages, and that the process by which a bill becomes law is rarely predictable.

How do I find older legislative information that is not available on Congress.gov?

The start date for bill records is 1973, bill texts is 1993, and the Congressional Record is 1995.  See Coverage Dates for Legislative Information for the complete update schedule and collection coverage dates. Visit a federal depository library for information not listed on that page.

Features, Updates and Technology

How do I save searches?

See Saved Search help for instructions on creating personal accounts to save searches.

How do I find out what's new and get tips on using Congress.gov?

To find out about new Congress.gov features and enhancements:

Is there a way I can embed a search box on my website?

For instructions and code go to How to Embed the Search Box on Your Website.

What browsers are supported?

  • Internet Explorer 8 and higher without compatibility mode
  • Firefox 4 and higher
  • Chrome 4 and higher
  • Safari 5 and higher

JavaScript is required for all browsers.

Can I use Congress.gov from my mobile device?

Yes, the responsive, uncluttered design makes it easy to see all the information on a page from a mobile device. Add Congress.gov to Your Home Screen provides step-by-step instructions.

Congressional Record

What is the Congressional Record?

Learn About the Congressional Record.

Where can I find the most recent Congressional Record?

You can view the most recent issue of the Congressional Record from the Congress.gov homepage. Look for the link under the Congress.gov logo at the top of the screen. From the Congressional Record page, you can browse full-text issues by date, pick a date from the calendar, or find specific issues using the volume and page finder. To search the Record, choose Congressional Record from the Main Search Box drop-down menu and enter a keyword or phrase.

The Congressional Record is also available as an app for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch users, with content back to 1995. The app is free to download via the iTunes store.

Committees

Where can I find information on committees?

All current committees are listed at Committees of the U.S. Congress. That directory provides access to each committee's page which serves as a gateway to more information. Learn more About Congressional Committee Profiles.

How do I find Committee Reports?

Committee reports may be searched in three ways from Congress.gov:

From the Main Search Box, choose the Committee Report option in the drop-down menu and enter report number, bill number, or keyword/phrase.
From the Committee Reports finder, enter the report number.
From the Legislation and Committee Reports by Number browse list.

Links to committee reports display on associated bill records in the Overview, and the Committees and Actions tabs. Learn more About Committee Reports.

Legislation

How are bills identified?

There are four types of legislation: bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions and simple resolutions. Any of these may be introduced in either chamber. Search Tools Overview is a guide for finding legislation in Congress.gov.

Why are there different versions of bills?

Legislation may be changed or amended as it makes its way through the legislative process. You will sometimes see different bill text versions in the Text tab of a bill record. A table defining each of the possible bill text versions can be found on the GPO website: Definitions of Common Versions of Bills.

The full text of a bill I need is not on Congress.gov yet. What can I do?

Check to see if the bill is available on GPO's FDsys. Since GPO is the source of bills for Congress.gov, a bill may appear sooner on GPO. In the current Congress, a bill or resolution normally will appear under the bill profile Text tab a day or two after it has been introduced on the floor of the House or Senate. Delays can occur when there is a large number of bills to prepare or when a very large bill has to be printed quickly. The system checks for new electronic copies sent from GPO throughout the day and begins the update process as soon as a bill or resolution is received.

What is the difference between policy area terms and legislative subject terms? 

Legislative analysts from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) closely examine the content of each bill and resolution to assign Policy Area Terms and Legislative Subject Terms.  Each measure is assigned only one of 32 possible Policy Area terms.  There is no limit to the number of legislative subject terms that may be assigned.  Assignment of a policy area term is made when a new measure is added to Congress.gov, while it may take longer to add legislative subject terms. If a measure is revised as it moves through the legislative process, additional subject terms may be assigned.   Amendments are not assigned policy area or subject terms.

The Legislative Indexing Vocabulary (LIV) is an older CRS thesaurus that was discontinued in 2008.  For more information on using terms from all three subject vocabularies to enhance Congress.gov research, see Find Bills by Subject and Policy Area.

Why has the short title not yet been added to a bill?

Short titles are manually added to bill records after the bill text has been published and is available on FDsys. The bill's official title will display until the bill text is available and the short title can be verified. The Congress.gov glossary provides more information about short titles.

Where do I find Conference Reports?

Conference reports are available from Congress.gov.

Conference reports are published in the Congressional Record and also in the congressional report document series. They may be available on House committee websites, especially the House Committee on Rules site or on the House Text of Bills to be Considered on the House Floor site before they are published in the Congressional Record.

THOMAS Retirement

When was THOMAS retired?

THOMAS was retired on July 5, 2016.

All THOMAS data was made available from Congress.gov prior to the retirement of THOMAS. The last two data sets transferred from THOMAS to Congress.gov in June 2016. Those data sets are: Congressional Record daily edition issues for 1989-1994 and Senate Executive and Other Communications for 1979-1986. Coverage Dates for Legislative Information is a directory of Congress.gov collections and data sets.

Thomas.loc.gov and www.thomas.gov direct visitors to Congress.gov.

Why was THOMAS replaced?

THOMAS launched in the mid-1990s using technology that was incapable of providing new functionality users have come to expect in a website. The new Congress.gov platform enhances access through features such as videos explaining the legislative process, compatibility with mobile devices, and a user-friendly presentation.

Congress.gov provides modern functionality, including:
  • Single search across all collections and all dates
  • Meaningful, persistent URLs
  • Filtered search results

What about THOMAS links that I have saved?

THOMAS URLs are redirected to Congress.gov, but updating your links is a recommended best practice.

Update THOMAS links to legislation, the Congressional Record, and other pages to use Congress.gov URL patterns.

The chart below provides Congress.gov URLs for popular THOMAS pages. Contact us if you need help finding the new URL for other pages.  

Handles - Links formatted like http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.uscongress/legislation.114hr4330 redirect to links formatted like https://congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/4330.

Permalinks – Links formatted like http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c114:S.55.IS:/ will redirect to links formatted like https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/55/text/IS.

Any THOMAS URLs that are not redirected to a specific page go to the Congress.gov homepage.

Popular THOMAS Page THOMAS URL Congress.gov URL
About http://thomas.loc.gov/home/abt_thom.html https://www.congress.gov/about
Appropriations http://thomas.loc.gov/home/approp/ https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/Appropriations+for+Fiscal+Year+2016
Enactment of a Law http://thomas.loc.gov/home/enactment/enactlawtoc.html https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/Enactment+of+a+Law+-+Learn+About+the+Legislative+Process
Federalist Papers http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fedpapers.html https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/The+Federalist+Papers
How Our Laws Are Made http://thomas.loc.gov/home/lawsmade.toc.html https://www.congress.gov/resources/display/content/How+Our+Laws+Are+Made+-+Learn+About+the+Legislative+Process
Roll Call Votes http://thomas.loc.gov/home/rollcallvotes.html https://www.congress.gov/roll-call-votes
State Legislature Websites http://thomas.loc.gov/home/state-legislatures.html https://www.congress.gov/state-legislature-websites

What about links on my website that run a sponsor/cosponsor search on THOMAS?

We suggest that you replace this type of link with the URL of the member’s Congress.gov page. The table below shows popular examples. If you do not change your search links, they will redirect to the Congress.gov homepage.

Link Options Sample URL
Legislation Sponsored https://www.congress.gov/member/karen-bass/B001270?q={%22sponsorship%22%3A%22sponsored%22}
Legislation Cosponsored https://www.congress.gov/member/richard-lugar/L000504?resultIndex=1&q={%22search%22%3A[%22lugar%22]%2C%22sponsorship%22%3A%22cosponsored%22}
Legislation Sponsored and Cosponsored https://www.congress.gov/member/shelley-capito/C001047

What about links on my website that run a committee activity search on THOMAS?

We suggest that you replace these links with the URL of the committee’s Congress.gov page. If you do not change your search links, they will redirect to the Congress.gov homepage.

EXAMPLES
https://www.congress.gov/committee/house-small-business/hssm00
https://www.congress.gov/committee/senate-health-education-labor-and-pensions/sshr00

What about websites that run a search within an iFrame?

We suggest that you replace the iFrame with the URL of the member’s Congress.gov page. The table below shows popular examples.

Link Options Sample URL
Legislation Sponsored https://www.congress.gov/member/karen-bass/B001270?q={%22sponsorship%22%3A%22sponsored%22}
Legislation Cosponsored https://www.congress.gov/member/richard-lugar/L000504?resultIndex=1&q={%22search%22%3A[%22lugar%22]%2C%22sponsorship%22%3A%22cosponsored%22}
Legislation Sponsored and Cosponsored https://www.congress.gov/member/shelley-capito/C001047

I have been screen scraping THOMAS, what are my options now?

Congress.gov Bill Status data is available from GPO's FDsys bulk data repository. Learn more about Congress.gov XML Bulk Data.

The Bill Status data set includes all data from the existing Bill Summaries data set plus bill status data. The Congressional Bills bulk data set is referenced by Bill Status data. Consult the Bill Status XML Bulk Data user guide for additional information.

Additional XML information is available through the following sources:

What about the THOMAS search box embedded on my website?

For instructions and code go to How to Embed the Search Box on Your Website.

If you do not change your embedded search box, THOMAS searches will go to the Congress.gov homepage.

Is an archive of the THOMAS site available?

Yes, at THOMAS web archive. The archive is a record, like a snapshot, that shows the site as it was in 2013 and earlier. Since 2012, development efforts shifted from THOMAS to Congresss.gov. An archive does not provide search functionality nor current data. It does provide a historical record of the look and feel of the site.

Congress.gov provides comparable and improved functionality. Prior to THOMAS retirement all data was made available from Congress.gov. The last two data sets transferred from THOMAS to Congress.gov in June 2016. Those data sets are: Congressional Record daily edition issues for 1989-1994 and Senate Executive and Other Communications for 1979-1986. Coverage Dates for Legislative Information is a directory of Congress.gov collections and data sets.

Help guides, documentation, and finding aids also have been migrated to Congress.gov.

The project to replace THOMAS with Congress.gov became available for public interaction in September 2012. Learn more About Congress.gov.