Resources for students
You’re not an expert on Congress? You probably already know more about Congress than most citizens (seriously). But you want to know even more (!). This page offers some resources that may be helpful now or in the future.
In addition, be sure to check out the Tutorials on LegSim. They can be really helpful too.
Legislative Explorer – If you’ve wondered what Congress does, this is a good place to start! An interactive visualization of congressional legislative activity. Watch the tutorial first (please)!
Sponsorship and cosponsorship activity – A closer look at the bills each member of the House and Senate sponsors or cosponsors. Pik a legislator you know, try to predict the topics of the bills you think they would sponsor, and then look at their actual bills. How did you do?
Congress.gov – this is the tracking system Congress uses to check on the status of specific bills and the activities that surround them. Takes a while to figure out how to use it, but it contains a lot of useful information.
The Tutorials page on your LegSim website is the place to begin for procedure. Below are some additional resources.
U.S. Constitution Article I creates Congress and its powers
House Senate Comparison Congressional Research Service Report
House of Representatives parliamentary procedures – TMI (too much information) but these are the rules the House operates by
Pocket Floor Procedures What to say and when to say it
Members, their Districts, their States
Two books also offer excellent descriptions of the political dynamics and history of specific districts and states: Almanac of American Politics. [JK1012.A44] and Politics in America. [JK1012.C63]
Communicating with Colleagues
Types of Legislation – There are different types of legislation. Which is appropriate for your subject?
Introducing a Bill or Resolution – Congressional Research Service primer for Members of Congress contains useful tips for students as well.
Bill Template – A LegSim-created infographic highlighting important features of bills and what to think about
How our Laws Are Made: A Ghost Writer’s View – If you are curious about how bills are actually written (members of Congress rarely do it) this staff including legal experts at the Legislative Counsel, play a central role in converting policy ideas to article provides insights into the process.
Researching Legislative Issues
Members of Congress rarely propose truly original ideas in their bills. Researchers have found that the ideas that become law take many years to work their way through the process (and thus have to be introduced many times, often by many different legislators). In addition, many bills proposed in Congress were first proposed at the state level. Here are some suggestions for investigating bill topics and language that might serve as the inspiration for your own bills.
Congress.gov – this is the tracking system Congress uses for bills and the activities that surround them. Takes a while to figure out how to use it, but it contains a lot of useful information including the texts of proposed bills.
Open States – A similar repository of State legislation that can be searched using keywords.
CQ Researcher Online– Organized by topics, and provides excellent background and legislative histories of important federal policy issues. Normally requires secure access through an academic library. The printed Congressional Quarterly Almanac [JK1.C66] is another option if it is available in your library.
Congressional Research Service reports – CRS prepares excellent reports about issues at the request of members of Congress. CRS does not make them available to the public. Nevertheless, if you Google “CRS” and the topic of interest, you may find that a report is available on-line. /
Public Agenda Online – What does the public think about your issue?
The Federal Budget
One of the most troubling facts about American politics is that citizens don’t understand how the government spends their money. There’s really no excuse!
Budget Challenge – from the non-partisan Concord Coalition – how’d you do?
Federal Budget of the United States – all the gory details about federal government revenues, expenditures and projections.
Congressional Budget Office – The CBO is required to estimate the costs of proposed legislation. This can be a good source for you to estimate how much it may cost to implement your own proposal.
Open Secrets – Everything you’d like to know about congressional campaign spending.
For examples of ads search “congressional campaign ad” on youtube or vimeo.