The Congressional Institute: Great Online Resource (April 2014)

Fifth Report of the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress (May 2013)

THOMAS to be replaced by Congress.gov

Ray Smock, Important New Report on Congress

Frank Mackaman, Use of Our Historical Materials (May 24, 2010)

Landmark Resolution on Congressional Papers Approved


The Congressional Institute: Great Online Resource (April 2014)

Founded in 1987, the Congressional Institute is a not-for-profit corporation dedicated to helping Members of Congress better serve their constituents and helping their constituents better understand the operations of the national legislature. The Institute sponsors major conferences for the benefit of Members of the U.S. Congress as well as a number of smaller gatherings, all devoted to an examination of important policy issues and strategic planning. The Institute also conducts important research projects consistent with its mission, develops resources such as a House Floor Procedures Manual and sponsors Oxford-style bipartisan Congressional debates.

Fifth Report of the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress (May 2013)

The Fifth Report of the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress, dated December 31, 2012, highlights the new greater emphasis on the Center for Legislative Archives within the National Archives and Records Administration, development of the Congressional Instance of the Electronic Records Archive at NARA, innovations in outreach to both members and committees to encourage preservation of their records, and enhanced collaborations among the Advisory Committee, the ACSC, and the Congressional Papers Roundtable of the Society of American Archivists. The report provides an essential summary of the preservation status and current issues affecting the records of Congress.


THOMAS to be replaced by Congress.gov

From the Library of Congress Magazine, March/April 2013 issue, courtesy of Dana Gabbard, Gov Docs Dept, Southwestern Law School, Los Angeles:

The Law Library and CRS, working with the Library's web services experts, maintain THOMAS, the Internet-accessible database that makes legislative information-bills, resolutions, treaties and the Congressional Record-available to Congress and the public. Congress.gov, a beta website operated jointly by the Library of Congress, the House, the Senate and the other legislative branch sources, provides the same information through mobile devices and eventually will replace THOMAS. The Law Library responds to all queries related to THOMAS and the Congress.gov beta site. "Since the launch of the public legislative information system known as THOMAS in 1995, Congress has relied on the Library to make the work of Congress available to the public in a coherent, comprehensive way," said Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.) at the September 2012 launch of the Congress.gov beta site. "The Library staff has a strong working relationship with the House, Senate and the Government Printing Office, which will enable the Library to successfully develop the next generation legislative information website."

Link to the beta site is at http://beta.congress.gov


Ray Smock, Important New Report on Congress (December 2012)

Ray Smock, Director of the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, calls attention to an important new report, “Getting Back to Legislating,” written by Don Wolfensberger for the Democracy Project, the Bipartisan Policy Center, and the Woodrow Wilson Center.   Ray has posted his thoughts on the report and provides links to the full report and the executive summary at: http://www.byrdcenter.org/index.php/2012/11/28/a-new-report-on-congress-tells-it-like-it-is/

 


Frank Mackaman, Use of Our Historical Materials (May 24, 2010)

Here is an example of how ACSC members could share information about the use of our congressional holdings. Scott Meinke, Associate Professor of Political Science, Bucknell University, presented  “Adaptable Institutions:  Growth and Change in the House Democratic Extended Leadership, 1975-2008” at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, April 16. The Dirksen Congressional Center provided a grant to support this project.

 

Here is an excerpt from his Appendix, “Data Sources”:

 

The narrative histories of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee and the Democratic whip system are based largely on primary source research in the archived papers of Democratic leaders of the 1970s-1990s. The O’Neill papers provided documentation of whip operations, membership, and strategy from the early 1970s through the early 1980s and DSPC membership activity from 1973 into the 1980s, plus leadership correspondence and staff memos related to the extended leadership and minutes of the Democratic Caucus from the 1970s and 1980s. The Foley papers provided documentation on the DSPC’s membership and activity from the late 1960s through the early 1990s and whip system documentation from the 1980s, as well as leadership correspondence, staff memos, and Caucus minutes from the 1970s through the early 1980s. The Albert papers provided whip system and DSPC materials as well as some staff memos and leader correspondence from the 93rd and 94th Congresses. The Gephardt papers, which I did not visit in person, contain much less documentation of extended leadership operations, but I was able to obtain some staff lists and a few whip documents. I have supplemented the primary source evidence with information on extended leadership activity and changes from journalistic sources, including Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, National Journal, The Hill, and Roll Call, as well as information from other scholars’ accounts, as documented in the text.


Landmark Resolution on Congressional Papers:  H. Con Res. 307 (2008)

The article that follows, written by Senate Archivist Karen Paul, places the passage of H. Con. Res. 307 in its historical perspective.  (See text below.) This resolution stands as a major landmark for all of us who use, collect, and preserve congressional collections. This article was written for the Congressional Papers Roundtable Newsletter and is reproduced with the author’s permission.

H. Con. Res. 307, 110th Congress, Passes
By Karen Paul

June 20, 2008 was a milestone in the long term efforts to improve preservation of the papers of members of Congress.  What began over thirty years earlier with the establishment of a Historical Office in the Senate in 1975 culminated when the House passed H. Con. Res. on  March 5, 2008 and the Senate in turn passed it by unanimous consent on June 20th. This resolution puts in place the final piece of a puzzle whose design element is the documentation of Congress, specifically the preservation of the papers of its members. With this concurrent resolution, the Congress finally has expressed in writing its “policy” regarding the preservation of these materials.

The discussion began years ago when the Public Documents Commission recommended that members’ papers become public records. [National Study Commission on Records and Documents of Federal Officials. Final Report, March 31, 1977 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1977), 19-22]. At the time, there were many objections and perceived problems, mainly centering on separation of powers and cost issues. The result was that nothing was done.  Both House and Senate went on to produce records management guidance for members and gradually an acceptable modus operandi developed.

The Congressional Papers Roundtable had been exploring various issues related to congressional documentation since 1984. At a forum held in 2001, the Roundtable emphasized the value of concentrating these collections at institutions that specialize in congressional documentation. The economies of doing so were noted as well as the fact that it would be an incredible boon for researchers to have sources concentrated in several large research centers rather that scattered about the nation in numerous isolated institutions.

The Association of Centers for the Study of Congress (established 2003) also reviewed the present state of preservation and access to congressional collections. As a result, the John H. Brademas Center for the Study of Congress at New York University hosted a symposium on October 25, 2005 on the history of the 1974 Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act, its role today, and current policy options and obstacles in archiving the papers of government officials. Representative John Brademas (D-IN, 1959-1981) was responsible for the legislation that resulted in the Presidential Records Act of 1978.  In opening remarks at the symposium, he commented that the time has come “to fashion a more rational, orderly public policy for dealing with the papers of senators and congressmen.”

The final panel of the day was on the topic of “Can We Create a Policy for the Papers of Public Officials?” In his report of the symposium, Bruce Craig (“Symposium Raises Concerns Over Disposition of Congressional Papers,” American Historical Association Perspectives, January 2006, 23) recounted that John Constance, then director of congressional affairs at the National Archives expressed his doubts that Congress would ever embrace legislation that would turn congressional records (now viewed as personal property) into public property. He stated that members would not allow a law to standardize access, the cost of preserving the collections is prohibitive, and all collections are not equally good.  Craig then went on to report that Karen Paul’s “upbeat” presentation suggested that the problems relating to creating a public policy were not as overwhelming as they seemed in the past. Paul pointed out that to an extent we already have a policy for the papers of public officials in place.  Both houses had devised records disposition guidelines for their members.  Retiring members generally do select a repository for their papers, and access to these collections is spelled out in deeds of gift and deposit agreements that tend to parallel the access rules for the official committee records of each body. The Congressional Papers Roundtable has helped to further standardize the appraisal and processing of congressional collections. She said that the one item lacking was a written policy.

The symposium report called for a congressional discussion of the issues and recommended that the presidential library system, characterized by its ease of use and centralization of resources and funding opportunities, be used as a model for congressional papers, in terms of how to define them and how to provide access to them. The report emphasized that access to these records is just as important as access to presidential papers. (Preserving and Expanding Public Access to Public Papers, The John Brademas Center, www.nyu.edu/ofp/brademascenter/events.html, 27 March 2006).

The Brademas conference provided the inspiration for a congressional resolution regarding preservation of papers. By September 2006, a draft resolution for the Senate was created but conditions were not conducive to moving it in the 109th Congress, there simply was not enough time. With the substantial changes brought by the 110th Congress, it was not until January 2008, that it was raised again with the Secretary of the Senate in preparation for a meeting of the Advisory Committee on the Records of Congress.  The resolution was thoroughly discussed at the January 28th committee meeting and unanimously endorsed.

The Clerk of the House, Lorraine Miller, “embraced” the resolution and immediately proposed it to the Committee on House Administration whose staff also liked the idea.  By February 6 a discussion draft was produced.  Over two days at the end of February, Farar Elliott , Chief of the House Office of History and Preservation, attended at least one three-hour meeting, and Senate Historian Richard Baker and I (via e-mail) discussed finer points of wording in the resolution with the House Legislative Counsel.  Finally the language was shaped to their satisfaction. The phrase “official papers of members of Congress” was changed to “Members’ Congressional papers” having been through several iterations including at one point “historically significant congressional office papers.”  Also in the preamble, the phrase “must be properly maintained” was changed to “should be properly maintained.” Representatives Robert Brady (D-PA) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI) introduced the measure and spoke eloquently in its favor. (See below)

On March 6, Roll Call reported that “The House passed a concurrent resolution by voice vote on Wednesday (the 5th) reminding Members that their Congressional papers must be properly maintained and encouraging them to “take all necessary measures to manage and preserve these papers.” (So much for fine tuning of the wording as reported by the press.)

As Richard Baker said in his keynote address to the Association of Centers for the Study of Congress  later in May, “Karen Paul and I have never danced before…” That same day, March 6th, it was received in the Senate and referred to the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. On March 28th it was referred to the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security so that the subcommittee could exercise its jurisdiction. With committee archivist Elizabeth Butler’s timely assistance to the Staff Director, and “talking points prepared by Richard Baker and myself, the committee ordered it to be reported favorably on April 10th.  On the twenty second, Senator Lieberman reported it and it was placed on the Legislative Calendar.

On June 19 at 14:40:22, the Republican Cloakroom “Hotlined” the resolution with the notation, “Call up and pass.”  And it did on the next day, June 20th at 12:47 P.M.

H. Con. Res. 307 expresses the sense of Congress regarding the importance of preserving members’ collections. While it does not define the contents- that is left to archivists- it does state the members’ common belief in their value and in the importance of preserving them. Over time, it will grow in stature as it is used over and over again in remarks, in written guidance, and as a constant reminder. This written “policy” provides congressional archivists inside and outside the Congress with a persuasive and useful tool for demonstrating the documentary importance of the materials that result from the members’ service. Service in Congress is a high public trust and the records of that service are invaluable. It now is up to all of us to use this new found tool to the best of our abilities.

***

The enrolled text follows:

H.Con.Res.307

Agreed to June 20, 2008

One Hundred Tenth Congress
of the
United States of America
AT THE SECOND SESSION


Begun and held at the City of Washington on Thursday,

the third day of January, two thousand and eight

Concurrent Resolution

Whereas Members' Congressional papers (including papers of Delegates and Resident Commissioners to the Congress) serve as indispensable sources for the study of American representative democracy;

Whereas these papers document vital national, regional, and local public policy issues;

Whereas these papers are crucial to the public's understanding of the role of Congress in making the Nation's laws and responding to the needs of its citizens;

Whereas because these papers serve as essential primary sources for the history of Congress, the study of these papers will illuminate the careers of individual Members;

Whereas by custom, these papers are considered the personal property of the Member who receives and creates them, and it is therefore the Member who is responsible to decide on their ultimate disposition; and

Whereas resources are available through the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate to assist Members with the professional and cost-effective management and preservation of these papers: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that--

(1) Members' Congressional papers (including papers of Delegates and Resident Commissioners to the Congress) should be properly maintained;

(2) each Member of Congress should take all necessary measures to manage and preserve the Member's own Congressional papers; and

(3) each Member of Congress should be encouraged to arrange for the deposit or donation of the Member's own noncurrent Congressional papers with a research institution that is properly equipped to care for them, and to make these papers available for educational purposes at a time the Member considers appropriate.

Attest:

Clerk of the House of Representatives.

Attest:

Secretary of the Senate.

****

Below is the Congressional Record and introductory remarks from Representatives Robert Brady (D-PA) and Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)

EXPRESSING SENSE OF CONGRESS THAT MEMBERS' CONGRESSIONAL PAPERS SHOULD BE PROPERLY MAINTAINED
 (House of Representatives- March 05, 2008)
[Page: H1254]

---

   Mr. BRADY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I move to suspend the rules and agree to the concurrent resolution (H. Con. Res. 307) expressing the sense of Congress that Members' Congressional papers should be properly maintained and encouraging Members to take all necessary measures to manage and preserve these papers.

   The Clerk read the title of the concurrent resolution.

   The text of the concurrent resolution is as follows:

   H. Con. Res. 307

   Whereas Members' Congressional papers (including papers of Delegates and Resident Commissioners to the Congress) serve as indispensable sources for the study of American representative democracy;

   Whereas these papers document vital national, regional, and local public policy issues;

   Whereas these papers are crucial to the public's understanding of the role of Congress in making the Nation's laws and responding to the needs of its citizens;

   Whereas because these papers serve as essential primary sources for the history of Congress, the study of these papers will illuminate the careers of individual Members;

   Whereas by custom, these papers are considered the personal property of the Member who receives and creates them, and it is therefore the Member who is responsible to decide on their ultimate disposition; and

   Whereas resources are available through the Office of the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate to assist Members with the professional and cost-effective management and preservation of these papers: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that--

    (1) Members' Congressional papers (including papers of Delegates and Resident Commissioners to the Congress) should be properly maintained;

    (2) each Member of Congress should take all necessary measures to manage and preserve the Member's own Congressional papers; and

    (3) each Member of Congress should be encouraged to arrange for the deposit or donation of the Member's own noncurrent Congressional papers with a research institution that is properly equipped to care for them, and to make these papers available for educational purposes at a time the Member considers appropriate.

   The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to the rule, the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Brady) and the gentleman from Michigan (Mr. Ehlers) each will control 20 minutes.

   The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Pennsylvania.

   GENERAL LEAVE         
          
   Mr. BRADY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks in the Record on H. Con. Res. 307.

   The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Pennsylvania?

   There was no objection.

   Mr. BRADY of Pennsylvania. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

   Mr. Speaker, it is very easy for Members to get caught up in the day-to-day responsibilities of their job. In between regular correspondence, speeches, and vote recommendations, Members accumulate a lot of paper. Most will not give consideration to the importance of this paper until the end or middle of their careers.

   The papers generated by Members while in office reflect the issues of the day and are of historical benefit to students, scholars, and citizens in understanding the role of the House of Representatives in the Federal Government.

   Mr. Speaker, H. Con. Res. 307 is a concurrent resolution that reminds Members of the importance of maintaining and archiving their papers so that future leaders and citizens of history may learn and understand the decisions that we have made. I urge passage of H. Con. Res. 307.

   Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

   Mr. EHLERS. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

   Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H. Con. Res. 307, which expresses the sense of the Congress that congressional papers should be properly maintained and encourages Members to take all necessary measures to manage and preserve these papers.

   This is a very important issue, and one that I am also delinquent on, as I suspect most Members are. At various times I have encouraged my staff to be certain that we take proper care of papers, that we maintain them, and that they are available for archiving once we leave office. But yet, it is a very difficult task to do this on a day-to-day basis and remember to do it.

   Let me also bemoan the fact that the executive branch has been subjected to lawsuits on this isssue, and the courts have declared they must save every little piece of paper, every message, and they are open to scrutiny and subpoena at any time in the future. The net effect of this is that the White House puts hardly anything down on paper, a practice that was developed in the previous administration as well. That is unfortunate. We should have the freedom to express our thoughts freely and make certain that they are preserved in a fashion that prevents them from being used improperly in future times.

   As Members of Congress, we are routinely faced with an abundance of notes, letters, and other papers that cross our desk each day. For each of us, there is a temptation to rid ourselves of today's notes and papers and begin each day anew, free from the scourge of clutter. And I know my office certainly should be more free of clutter. It would be easiest to discard these items along with rest of the day's castoffs, but as history has shown us, it is often these mundane items that have painted the most accurate and detailed picture of our Nation's history.

   These papers and their contents separately may tell us very little about the place and time in which they were created, but they are threads that, when woven together, create the fabric of our democracy.

   While congressional papers are the property and responsibility of the Member, the Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate stand ready to assist Members of Congress in the disposition and handling of these materials. I urge all of my colleagues to join me in the effort to retain congressional documents, and in doing so, preserve a piece of history for the sake of our individual and collective posterity.

   Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

   Mr. BRADY of Pennsylvania. I thank the ranking member, Mr. Ehlers, for your cooperation. It is a pleasure working with you from day to day.

   Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

   The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentleman from Pennsylvania (Mr. Brady) that the House suspend the

[Page: H1255]

rules and agree to the concurrent resolution, H. Con. Res. 307.

   The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the concurrent resolution was agreed to.

   A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.


 
 

 

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