How to . . .
find out about congressional votes
All voting in Congress is a matter of public record. However, not all floor votes are roll call votes. There are voice votes (“aye” or “no”) and division or standing votes (where the presiding officer counts Members), and these types of votes do not indicate by name how a Member voted.
Senate roll call vote tallies are posted online within an hour of the vote. You can view today's votes or use the vote tables to look at any roll call vote taken since the 101st Congress (1989). The tallies provide brief descriptions of the votes and links to THOMAS for the texts of the legislation.
THOMAS provides Senate recorded floor votes going back to the 101st Congress (1989-90) and House recorded floor votes going back to the second session of the 101st Congress (1990). Looking at votes through THOMAS is easy if you know the date the vote occurred or you know the vote or bill number, but there is no subject access to votes and the description of each vote is very brief. House vote charts are broken out by yeas, nays, and not voting, and include overall vote tallies and party breakdowns. The Senate vote charts are grouped by three categories: yeas, nays, and not voting; alphabetically by name; and by state. The Senate charts also provide overall tallies, but not party breakdowns.
The Congressional Record is the official source of information on recorded floor votes. Votes are printed in the daily Record as they occur on the floor. The votes provide an alphabetical listing of members under “yea,” “nay,” and “not voting” categories and show the overall tally for each category. However, votes are not identified by party or by state. The Daily Digest section that is printed at the end of each Record shows how many roll call votes were taken that day and show on what page in the Record the votes can be found. The Congressional Record Index provides subject access to the votes (under “Votes in Senate” and “Votes in House.”)
The CQ Weekly is a magazine published by Congressional Quarterly (CQ). CQ compiles voting charts of all votes taken in the Senate and House each week. The charts are arranged chronologically by Congressional Record vote number and alphabetically by state. In the Senate charts, the most senior Senator is listed first; in the House charts, the states are broken down by congressional district. Members’ names are listed in the left-hand column and vote numbers are shown at the top of the chart. The charts show how each member voted or whether the member was absent or paired on a vote. Succinct but useful vote captions explain the nature of the vote and shows the bill number, bill title, and sponsor. There are also overall vote tallies and party breakdowns on the vote. Weekly vote charts are compiled annually in two CQ books: the CQ Almanac and Congressional Roll Call, which contain subject indexes to the votes.
Before 1987, CQ used different vote numbers from the Congressional Record. The CQ vote number was different because the Record includes quorum calls in its vote number tally, and CQ did not. CQ would cross-reference its vote numbers to the corresponding Congressional Record vote numbers; you will find this cross-referencing at the top corner of the page the vote chart appears on. This confusing difference was eliminated beginning in 1987.
CQ publications are often available in public libraries or federal depository libraries.