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Congressional Timeline: A "Snapshot" of Major Legislation and Political Events

Have you ever wondered what political events surround the passage of significant Congressional legislation?  Context can shed light on the meaning of a statute, by helping us understand what events transpired during enactment and how they might have influenced a legislature’s state of mind and choice of words during passage. While we typically seek legislative documents such as reports, hearings and debates for insight, a less traditional but very useful resource is the Congressional Timeline, developed by the Dirksen Congressional Center, a non-partisan, not-for-profit organization.    According to Cindy Koeppel at the Dirksen Congressional Center, the Congressional Timeline seeks to “help people better understand Congress, and to provide a 'snapshot' of important dates and resources in an easy-to-use, chronological format.”   

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The Congressional Timeline covers over 550 major federal laws, beginning in 1933 and continuing to the present.    The web site uses a green timeline “band” to indicate legislation and a red timeline “band” to indicate corresponding contemporary events.   Searchable “legislation” and “event” bands further enhance the functionality and value of Congressional Timeline.  
 
Ms. Koeppel also noted that you will find “the partisan composition of each Congress, along with the presidential administration and the congressional leaders; the session dates of each Congress; measures of legislative productivity, such as the number of bills introduced and passed;…and examples of documents, photos, audio clips, transcripts, videos, and lesson plans all related to legislation.”

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With the new 113th Congress beginning on January 3, 2013, what better time to visit Congressional Timeline!