Rules of Access to the Records of Congress
The Center applies the rules of access for congressional records as determined
by the House and the Senate.
Access to House records is governed by the provisions of House Rule VII subject to determination of the Clerk of the House.
For the Senate it is based on Senate Resolution 474 from the 96th Congress.
Although the House and Senate regularly transfer records to the National Archives and Records Administration, these remain closed to researchers for designated periods of time: 30 years for most House records, with investigative records and records involving personal privacy closed for 50 years; 20 years for most Senate records, with a similar 50-year closure period for sensitive Senate records. Some Senate committees have instructed the Center to open selected series of records to researchers upon receipt of the records by the National Archives and Records Administration.
The records of Congress are not subject to the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.
Rules of Access to Joint Committee Records
The records of Joint Committees of Congress at the Center are organized into two groups, determined by the chamber that transferred the records.
Prior to World War II, allocation of the records followed no clear pattern. Consequently, records for the same committees may be among joint committee records received from both the House and Senate, presumably because House members of the joint committee retired their records through the Clerk of the House, while Senate members retired their records through the Secretary of the Senate.
After 1946, administrative responsibility for each joint committee--its staff and its records--was specifically assigned to either the House or the Senate. This action affects users in one important way: the rules of access of the chamber that transferred the records to the National Archives and Records Administration determine the availability of the records.