Congressional Information

The Importance of Hearings

Hearings are called by the House, Senate, jointly or as part of a special committee. Generally open to the public, hearings are held to gather information and opinions related to:

  • gathering background information for proposed legislation
  • conducting an investigation (e.g. disaster or crisis)
  • evaluating or overseeing the activities of a Federal agency
  • implementing Federal law
  • exploring issues/topics of current interest
  • gathering public opinion
  • general fact-finding and more

Depending on the topic of the hearing, witnesses typically include:

  • government officials
  • outside experts
  • scholars
  • interest group spokespersons
  • concerned citizens
  • celebrities
  • sports figures

Witnesses typically will have prepared statement for the record that is submitted and often posted on the Committee website in advance of the hearing.  In the Internet world, hearings are often webcast or show on sites such as C-SPAN and later published.  The published version includes the transcript of the testimony, witness answers to questions, discussion and any supplmental material that was provided.  This can include, slides, reports, exhibits, statistics and the like.  The printed version can take anywhere from two months to two years to be published.

Executive session hearings are not open to the public and are often not printed.

Finding Hearings

Selected Transcripts of hearings can be found through: