It only took twenty-five years, but Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports are finally available through the Library of Congress. Members of Congress have long released the reports to third-party databases, but now the reports are available directly from the Library of Congress. As the research is paid for by taxpayers and conducted at the behest of Congress, limited access to this research has long been an affront to legislative transparency.
According to their FAQ, the CRS is “a federal legislative branch agency located within the Library of Congress, [which] serves as shared staff exclusively to congressional committees and Members of Congress. CRS experts assist at every stage of the legislative process — from the early considerations that precede bill drafting, through committee hearings and floor debate, to the oversight of enacted laws and various agency activities.”
CRS research is non-partisan and takes a multi-perspective approach to current issues and legislation. Reports are both on demand and anticipatory. “CRS approaches complex topics from a variety of perspectives and examines all sides of an issue. Staff members analyze current policies and present the impact of proposed policy alternatives.”
CRS services include reports on major policy issues; tailored confidential memoranda; briefings and consultations; seminars and workshops; and expert congressional testimony.
“With public policy issues growing more complex, the need for insightful and comprehensive analysis has become vital. Congress relies on CRS to marshal interdisciplinary resources, encourage critical thinking and create innovative frameworks to help legislators form sound policies, reach decisions on a host of difficult issues and address their constituents’ concerns and needs. These decisions will guide and shape the nation today and for generations to come.”
- Congressional Research Service FAQ
The CRS database was included in The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. “We worked closely with Congress to make sure that we had a mutual understanding of the law’s requirements and Congress’ expectations in our approach to this project,” said Carla D. Hayden, Librarian of Congress.
As governmental work product, CRS research is not subject to copyright. Thus, CRS research may be broadly disseminated without permission. However, some research may contain copyrighted third-party images or material.
The new website provides the same search functionality as Congress and is keyword searchable. Full-text searching is available along with filtering by topic, date, author, and additional keywords.