The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the public policy research arm of Congress. Along with two other congressional support agencies, the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office, the Congressional Research Service offers research and analysis to Congress on all current and emerging issues of national policy. CRS analysts work exclusively for Congress, providing assistance in the form of reports, memoranda, customized briefings, seminars, digitally recorded presentations, information obtained from governmental and nongovernmental databases, and consultations in person and by telephone. This work is governed by requirements for confidentiality, timeliness, accuracy, objectivity, balance, and nonpartisanship.
The CRS works exclusively for the United States House and Senate, providing policy and legal analysis to members, committees, and their staffs regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for more than a century. CRS is well-known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nationâ€™s best thinking.
CRS employs more than 400 policy analysts, attorneys and information professionals across a variety of disciplines in five research divisions. The breadth and depth of this expertise â€” from law, economics and foreign affairs to defense and homeland security, public administration, education, health care, immigration, energy, environmental protection, science and technology â€” enables CRS quickly to mobilize flexible groups that provide integrated analyses of complex issues facing the Congress.
Longstanding congressional policy allows Members and committees to use their websites to disseminate CRS products to the public, although CRS itself may not engage in direct public dissemination. CRS plays a vital role in our legislative process by informing lawmakers and staff about important policy issues. CRS reports are non-confidential, but other CRS products, such as memoranda, are confidential. CRS reports are widely available on Capitol Hill to staff and lobbyists alike, and could be of immense value to the general public. Longstanding congressional policy allows Members and committees to distribute CRS products to the public, which they do in a variety of ways. In addition, CRS provides reports upon request to the judicial branch, to journalists, and to the executive branch, which often publishes them on agency websites. Members of the public can freely access only a subset of CRS reports, usually via third parties. CRS staffers believe Congress should provide a central online source for timely public access to CRS reports. Other legislative support agencies, i.e., the Congressional Budget Office and the Government Accountability Office, publish non-confidential reports on their websites as a matter of course.
In 2014 CRS completed over 1,000 new reports and updated over 2,500 existing products. (CRS also produced nearly 3,000 confidential memoranda in 2014). CRS policy allows the agency to directly provide reports to executive and judiciary offices and employees, state and local government officials, members of the media and foreign embassies upon request, and sometimes research divisions will provide reports to the public upon request.
In March 2016 the "Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016" was introduced into the House (H.R. 4702
) and the Senate (S.2369
) to direct the GPO to provide free access to Congressional Research Reports on a publicly available website.
The Project On Government Oversight
(POGO) reported in July 2017 that the day anyone can access a CRS report may soon be here. In the proposed appropriations for the CRS released on June 28, 2017, the House Appropriations Committee directed the CRS
to â€œmake available to the public, all non-confidential reports." Because this mandate is in a Legislative Branch Appropriations bill, these reports are only one successful House vote away from being publicly release. The legislation, called the Equal Access to Congressional Research Service Reports Act of 2016
, was introduced by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and John McCain (R-AZ) in the Senate and by Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Mike Quigley (D-IL) in the House.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 directed the Library to make CRS reports publicly available online. The result was the new public website for CRS reports released to the public on September 18, 2018. Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden wrote on 9/18/18 that "Moving forward, all new or updated reports will be added to the website as they are made available to Congress. The Library is also working to make available the back catalog of previously published reports as expeditiously as possible."
CRS reports, as works of the United States Government, are not subject to copyright protection in the United States. Any CRS report may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without permission from CRS. However, as a CRS report may include copyrighted images or material from a third party, you may need to obtain the permission of the copyright holder if you wish to copy or otherwise use copyrighted material.