Steps to Using The THOMAS System

Steps to Using The THOMAS System Introduction:

The Library of Congress’s THOMAS system was launched in 1995 with the intention of making all federal legislation readily available to the public.  Over time THOMAS has expanded to include:

  • • Bills and Resolutions
  • o Public Laws by Law Number
  • o House Roll Call Votes
  • o Senate Roll Call Votes
  • o Legislation by Sponsor
  • • Activity in Congress
  • o Yesterday in Congress – a review of the previous legislative day
  • o House Floor Now – continuous updates of events occurring in the House of Representatives.
  • • Congressional Records, Calendars
  • o Contains the official records for all sessions on Congress since 1989
  • • Committee Information
  • • Presidential Nominations
  • • Treaties
  • • Government Resources

All of these resources are searchable through the website.

How do I use THOMAS to find a piece of legislation?

Let’s say you are researching US-Cuban Relations.  You could start with H.R.255 – the Cuba Reconciliation Act if you had prior knowledge on the subject.  But let’s assume the researcher does not have complete information.  The researcher can use THOMAS to:

  • • Search by Bill Text – Simply typing “Cuba” into a simple search of Bills, Resolutions of the 112th Congress brings up 66 results, with the Cuba Reconciliation Act second on the list
  • • Search by Bill Sponsor – Let’s say you know the name of the sponsor – Rep. Jose Serrano of New York’s 16th district.  You may go to the homepage of THOMAS and select the “Browse Bills by Sponsor” dropdown box.  Selecting Jose Serrano will pull up 17 results with the Cuba Reconciliation Act appearing as number 8 on the list
  • • A newer function tags relevant documents with specific search tags such as “commerce” or “health.”  Individuals starting a very broad search may choose to start here to get an idea of the nature of bills passed by Congress.

Once you have found the appropriate piece of legislation, there will be a page for the bill that shows among other relevant information, the text of the legislation, amendments, committees and most importantly All Congressional Actions.

What other services are available on THOMAS for the general public?

The THOMAS website maintains a special section for teachers and K-12 students to help them learn about issues in government and the legislative process.  There are also resources for adults that inform readers of interesting facts as well as procedural rules about Congress.

Why is THOMAS an essential function of the Library of Congress?

THOMAS’s namesake, President Thomas Jefferson believed in the right of ordinary citizens to be able to review the affairs of the government and other relevant legislative information.  The continued existence of THOMAS provides unprecedented access for every American to otherwise an otherwise impenetrable legislative process.  The expansion of the scope of THOMAS to include all affairs of Congress also helps further the goal of a more open government.

Related Topics