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Congressional Documents: Comm. Hearings

About

Hearings can be excellent sources of policy information, the perspectives of witnesses and committee members, and data.

Hearings are held by congressional committees to gather information on proposed legislation or to conduct oversight, including "the review, monitoring, and supervision of the implementation of public policy".* Hearings are also held to investigate issues of national importance, such as the Pearl Harbor attack or the Watergate break-in. Senate committees hold confirmation hearings for presidential nominees. (More on types of hearings) Expert witnesses or people who will be affected by the proposed legislation may be called to testify. They may bring along exhibits which may provide information hard to find anywhere else.

While most hearings are published, committees are not required to publish transcripts of hearings. The Committee Chair makes the decision to do so, and decides whether the hearing will be published in paper or digitally or both. Publication can happen quickly, be delayed for months, or never occur. Bowdoin has most published hearings in paper from 2003 to 2010 and scattered hearings from other time periods. Otherwise, Bowdoin Library provides access to hearings only in digital format.

Some committees, especially in the House, issue a Hearing Memorandum, which often contain a statement of the purpose of the hearing, witnesses, background information, and a short bibliography. Look for these from 2004-2011 in ProQuest Congressional in the Committee Prints & Misc. Publications database.

Google Books has digitized many hearings from the twentieth century. If you know the title of the hearing, search Google Books with keywords in that title. Or try the phrase "hearing before the committee" with a subject word and limit to "full view only." HathiTrust and the Internet Archive are other sources for historical hearings.

* Congressional Research Service, Types of Committee Hearings, 2015.

 


Oliver North, Iran Contra Hearings, 1987
Courtesy of Council on Foreign Relations

Example of a hearing, 1993

Find committee hearings

Congressional committee hearings
Congress Years Format Location Notes
1- 1789-
(coverage scattered in the earlier years)
online HathiTrust Best Bet for 1789-1823  
18, 2nd sess.-118, 1st sess. 1824-2023 online ProQuest Congressional Best Bet for 1824-2023 Also includes unpublished hearings, 1973-1992.
New: Congressional Hearing Print Request. Bowdoin students, faculty, and staff may request that a hearing be printed, bound, and delivered to your campus address in 2-4 days.
51-111 1890-2010
(with gaps)
paper Govt. Doc Y4. Use ProQuest Congressional for text online or use it as an index to get SuDocs number of the print hearing.
New: Congressional Hearing Print Request. Bowdoin students, faculty, and staff may request that a hearing be printed, bound, and delivered to your campus address in 2-4 days.
56-95 1900-1978
(scattered coverage)
online HeinOnline 
96- 1979-
(stronger coverage)
79-105 1945-1998 online search or browse Congressional Hearings in govinfo Best Bet for freely available  
106-present 1999-present
(stronger coverage)
103-present 1993-present online Browse congress.gov by Committees > [...] Hearing Transcripts
108, 2nd sess.- 2004-present online ProQuest Congressional Selected testimony transcripts and submitted statements only.
varies varies online U.S. House of Representatives Committee Repository;
House Committees;
Senate Committees;
C-SPAN
May provide access to selected full content of hearings or only to the prepared statements of witnesses.
varies varies online NexisUni Search under "News". Not comprehensive, but has hearings transcripts not easily found elsewhere.
varies varies online U.S. Congressional Serial Set;
Internet Archive;
Google Books
None of these databases is comprehensive but they may have hearings not found elsewhere.
Congress Years Format Location Notes

 

Congressional committee Hearings: video recordings
Years Format Location
mid-1980s- video C-SPAN
  video congress.gov, Committee Hearings and Meetings Video
  video The websites of the committees before which the hearing was held may also provide video: House Committees; Senate Committees

 

Congressional committee Hearings: indexes to hearings
Congress Years Format Location Notes
18, 2nd sess.-present 1824-present online ProQuest Congressional  
53-95 1895-1977 print Monthly Catalog of U.S. Govt. Publications, Govt. Doc GP 3.8:  
94-present 1976-present online Catalog of U.S. Government Publications