Committee Hearings

Overview

Published hearings are the official record of committee hearings proceedings. Hearings, which are usually open to the public, are held to enable committees to gather opinions and information to help Members make decisions regarding proposed legislation or to help them fulfill their oversight and investigation responsibilities.

Official hearings publications, which are printed by the Government Printing Office, usually include:

  • Written and oral statements of witnesses
  • Transcripts of the verbal question-and-answer session between the committee and witnesses
  • Reports, exhibits, and other materials submitted for the record by witnesses
  • Correspondence and other materials submitted by interested parties

Most hearings are published from six months to a year after the hearing is held, but some hearings are published following a gap of two or more years, and some are never published. The timing of the publication, as well as the decision on whether or not to publish, depends solely on the individual committees. Transcripts of hearings that are not published are deposited at the National Archives. Senate unpublished hearings can be released after 20 years and House unpublished hearings can be released after 30 years, but all hearings can be held 50 years or more for national security or privacy reasons.

In 1983 (98th Congress) the Senate adopted a numbering system for hearings that is still used today, but the House does not have a numbering system for hearings. Transcripts of hearings are occasionally issued as or included in House or Senate reports or documents, in which case they are numbered as a report or a document.

Testimony is usually arranged within the publication in the chronological order in which the witnesses appeared. Witnesses' written statements are sometimes located throughout the hearing following the spoken testimony transcript, and are sometimes located within the supplementary material at the end of the volume.

Accessing Committee Hearings

  • Use the Basic Search Form (Congressional Publications), Advanced Search Form (Congressional Publications), or Search By Number Form (Congressional Publications).
  • Use these search criteria:
    • Keyword
    • Title
    • Subject index term
    • Geographical index term
    • Committee name
    • Witness name
    • Witness affiliation
    • Bill number
    • Congressional number (if applicable)
    • CIS accession number
    • SuDoc number
  • Access results records and full text provided under your institution's access agreement. Available full text may be accessed from the results records. Users with access to Congressional Hearings Digital Collection modules will find the link to the full text PDF at the bottom of each results record. Users with access to the basic subscription will be able to access available transcripts and submitted statements by clicking the Retrieve Full Text of Testimony link. If no results are returned by clicking this link, then no full text content is available for that particular hearing.

    Since 2003, in addition to official published hearings, the basic hearings collection has also included partisan policy committee transcripts, e-hearings, and minority committee hearings.

Highlights of what's covered as part of the basic subscription:

  • Abstracts and indexing for all published hearings held from 1970 forward
  • Abstracts and indexing for e-hearings made public on the House Education and Workforce Committee Democratic staff Web site
  • Abstracts and indexing for e-hearings made available on official Web sites of committees, including minority staff Web sites
  • Abstracts and indexing for hearings convened by Members of the minority
  • Selected transcripts and submitted statements from 1988-present

Additional Information and Research Strategies

Tip: Users searching for testimony should concentrate primarily on hearings, although testimony transcripts, excerpts, and written statements are occasionally included within other publication types.

ProQuest® Congressional provides access to congressional hearings through the Basic, Advanced, and Search by Number forms. All hearings records can be searched by keyword, title, subject or geographical index term, committee name, witness name or affiliation, bill number, congressional number (if applicable), CIS accession number, and SuDoc number.

The ProQuest Congressional basic subscription contains abstracts and indexing for all published hearings held from 1970 forward. The collection is comprehensive. In 2005, the collection guidelines were expanded to include e-hearings made public on the House Education and Workforce Committee Democratic staff Web site. Future e-hearings made available on official Web sites of committees, including minority staff Web sites, will be included in the collection, as will published transcripts of hearings convened by Members of the minority.

ProQuest Congressional also makes available, through the U.S. Serial Set Digital Collection optional module, annotated indexing and searchable PDFs for hearings published as sections of numbered congressional reports or documents contained in the Senate Library bound Serial Set collection, 1833-1934, as well as other hearings not previously identified.

ProQuest Congressional also makes available annotated indexing for hearings held from 1833-1969 through the optional historical indexes module. Searchable PDFs for all hearings are available through the Congressional Hearings Digital Collection.

See the Content Coverage Chart for more information on hearings content availability.

Temporary Hearing Records

ProQuest Congressional creates temporary results records for all hearings (from 2005 forward) based on information available in the daily Congressional Record. These temporary results records become available a day or two after a hearing is held. To access available transcripts and submitted statements associated with the hearing, click the Retrieve selected transcripts link on the temporary results record. If no results are returned by clicking the link, this means that no full text content is available for that particular hearing.

Once the official hearing is published by the Government Printing Office, the temporary results records are replaced with permanent results records containing abstracts, full indexing, and full bibliographic information associated with the published hearing. If a hearing is not published, the temporary results record will remain in the system, so the user will know that a hearing was held but was never published. When the unpublished hearing is released, it will be fully indexed and a permanent results record will be created that will replace the temporary results record and become accessible to users who subscribe to the optional historical indexes module or to the Congressional Hearings Digital Collection.

The temporary records all include the parenthetical phrase (CIS Abstract Not Yet Available) and state that it references a congressional hearing not yet published by GPO, reflects content cited in the Congressional Record Daily Digest, and will be replaced by a complete results record when/if the hearing is printed.

Temporary results records can be searched by keyword, bill number, broad subject terms, and the names of witnesses and witness affiliations cited in the Congressional Record.

Transcripts of Hearings

The ProQuest Congressional basic subscription also includes selected transcripts and witnesses' written statements for many hearings, with coverage beginning in 1988. This material becomes available within a day or two after the hearing is held.

To access this material, the user should use the Basic Search or Advanced Search form. The Basic Search and the Advanced Search default both return permanent or temporary records linked to the testimony transcripts and written statements.

The All Fields Including Full Text drop-down list option on the Advanced Search Form (Congressional Publications) will take the user directly to the transcripts and written statements. The advantage of accessing the results record first is that the record provides bibliographic and content information that will help the user make sense of the testimony materials.

Unpublished Hearings

Not all congressional hearings are published. Each committee makes its own decision regarding which hearings are to be published. A committee may decide not to publish a hearing because it contains classified or sensitive information, or because it pertains to private or other legislation deemed to be not of great interest to the public at large, or simply because committee budget or workload considerations preclude the publication. The committee does not have to justify its decision not to publish.

The transcripts of unpublished hearings are transferred to the National Archives. Senate hearings generally remain closed for 20 years, and House hearings remain closed for 30 years. Hearings that contain classified or sensitive material generally remain closed for 50 years.

When they are released, unpublished hearings are not normally published by the committees, although in unusual circumstances they may be. For example, the transcripts of the Senate Government Operations Committee Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations 1953 hearings to investigate alleged espionage and subversive activities were published as a Government Operations Committee print in 2003.

ProQuest Congressional also makes available annotated indexing for unpublished hearings through the optional historical indexes module and the Congressional Hearings Digital Collection. Results records are available for Senate unpublished hearings from 1824-1984, and for House unpublished hearings from 1833-1972.

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