Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 22

Records of the United States Senate, 1969-1988

History and Jurisdiction

22.1. In 1980, the Senate approved S. Res. 474, 96th Cong., to establish rules for access to its records. Under this resolution, records of the United States Senate are open for research when they either 20 or 50 years old, depending on such factors as the security-classification of the records and the type and nature of personal information they contain. While the earlier chapters of this volume do not include much information on most of the records of the Senate and its committees for the 91st-100th Congresses because they are currently closed to researchers, a summary of the records in the custody of the National Archives for this period can provide useful information on the nature and scope of contemporary Senate records. The purpose of this chapter is to discuss certain trends in modern Senate records, to summarize the current total holdings for the post-1969 period, and to highlight some of the special holdings of Record Group 46. Researchers should bear in mind that the National Archives accessions records of the Senate continuously and additions to its holdings for this period are a certainly.

Back to Top

Trends in Modern State Records

22.2. Between the end of the 90th Congress in 1968 and the end of the 100th Congress in 1989, the records of the Senate and its committees have been marked by several trends. The most significant of these is the continuing growth in volume of paper records. The volume of records of the Senate for the 1st through the 79th Congress (1789-1946), as described in the National Archives Preliminary Inventory 23 (1950), measured 6,558 cubic feet. For the 80th through the 90th Congresses (1947-68), approximately 7,000 feet of records were transferred. As a point of comparison, when the records of certain subcommittees whose series overlap the open and closed period, such as the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigation (see Chapter 11) or the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee (see Chapter 13), are included, the National Archives has already accessioned more than 7,000 feet of records for the 91st-100th Congresses. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of feet of additional records will be eligible for transfer in the next several years. In spite of technological and records management improvements, the paper records of the Senate continue to grow.

22.3. Among the technological improvements implemented by the Senate are the increased use of micrographics, both rolled microfilm and microfiche; the limited use of computer-generated indexes; and adoption of the Senate-wide Correspondence Management System (CMS).

22.4. In addition to these changes, since 1982 an archivist has been on the staff of the Senate Historical Office to provide records management technical assistance to Senate committees and offices and the personal offices of Senators. The current archivist, Karen Dawley Paul, oversees the arrangement and transfer of the records to the National Archives by the committees and offices, and has written records management handbooks, Records Management Handbook for United States Committees, S. Pub. 100-5 (1988), and Records Management Handbook for United States Senators and Their Repositories, S. Pub. 99-4 (1985), to guide files maintenance and records disposition practices of Senate committees and the personal offices of Senators, respectively. Her interaction with Senate offices has had and continues to have a significant positive impact on the organization and condition of the records transferred in the past half-dozen years.

22.5. Unfortunately, many series of records accessioned during the 1970's and early 1980's were not as well organized or identified as those from earlier and later Congresses. The staff of the National Archives has made some important bodies of records more accessible, but much more work needs to be done in order to gain proper control over the records. Future researchers will profit from these staff efforts to overcome the problems of organizational and intellectual control of records during these years.

22.6.  Recent records of the Senate are more likely to contain the types of records that document the decision making process at the committee and subcommittee level. Such records include memorandums to the chairman by professional and legal staff, memorandums of meetings and telephone conversations, files maintained by various staff members, and records of conference committees and markup sessions. These kinds of records rarely exist as separate series but rather are found in legislative case files, correspondence, and other series. The amount and quality of the records varies from committee to committee; for some committees, there are few records of subcommittees or staff, while for others, the volume of subcommittees records equals or exceeds the volume for records of the full committee. And obviously, as has been the case through much of the 20th century, decisions arrived at during telephone conversations or informally at private meetings may very well lack written documentation. However, in comparison with the quantity and quality of unpublished records of the early 20th century, the last 20 years of the United States Senate are well-documented.

Back to Top

Summary of Records Holdings

22.7. The 6,781 feet of records that have been accessioned for the 91st through the 100th Congresses consist of records of standing committees and subcommittees (5,324 ft.), records of select and special committees (764 ft.), and non-committee records (693 ft.). These figures are approximate because, as stated in a number of the preceding chapters, some of the previously described records contain post-1968 material. Conversely, in a few instances, the records described in this chapter have pre-1969 material intermixed. 

22.8. It is important to note that major changes in committee organization occurred during the period covered by this chapter. Pursuant to the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-510), the Committee on Veterans' Affairs was established and the Committee on Banking and Currency was renamed the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. Budget committees were established in both Houses as a result of the Congressional Budget Act of 1974 (Public Law 93-344). The most significant changes, however, followed Senate approval of S. Res. 4, 95th Cong., which incorporated suggestions made by the Temporary Select Committee to Study the Senate Committee System. As directed by the resolution, many of the committees were renamed and substantive changes were made in their jurisdiction. The changes as they affect particular committees are described in the appropriate chapters of this guide that describe committee records through 1968.

22.9 The following paragraphs summarize basic information about the records of each committee, subcommittee, and office after 1968 not included in previous committee chapters, and contain additional comments as appropriate.

22.10. Committee on Budget, 1974-80 (51 ft.): Records consist of legislative files, subject files, and other records; some of the committee's records are on microfilm cartridges. It has no subcommittees. See Committee Resource Guide for more information.

22.11. Committee on Small Business, 1969-86 (224 ft.): The committee was a select committee until March 25, 1981, when the Senate approved S. Res. 101, 97th Cong., giving it standing committee status. Records for the committee, 1969-74 (91st-93rd Congresses) are arranged by Congress in a central subject numeric files classification scheme. There is a detailed unpublished finding aid for this period. Records for the 94th Congress are arranged in part by the classification scheme, but some are also intermixed with records of the 95th and 96th Congresses. Beginning with the 95th Congress, the records include papers of staff members (chief counsel, economist, professional staff), investigative files, legislative files, executive communications, press releases, and samples of correspondence.

22.12. Committee on Veterans Affairs, 1971-82 (55 ft.): Records include legislative files, subject files, executive communications, unprinted transcripts of hearings, and nomination files. Correspondence for the 97th Congress is on microfilm. There are no subcommittee records.

22.13. Select and Special Committees, 1969-88 (746 ft.): There are legislative, investigative, and other records for the following subcommittees: Special Committee on Aging (18 ft.); Select Committee on Ethics (52 ft.); Select Committee on Indian Affairs (13 ft.); Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition (125 ft., see also paras. 22.35-22.36); Select Committee to Study the Law Enforcement Activities of Components of the Department of Justice-the ABSCAM Investigation (42 ft.); Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs (10 ft.); Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities (435 ft., see also paras. 22.33-22.34); Senate Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (11 ft.); Select Committee on Small Business (see Committee on Small Business, para. 22.27); Select Committee on Standards and Conduct (32 ft.); Temporary Select Committee to Study the Senate Committee System (3 ft.); and Special Committee on National Emergencies and Delegated Emergency Powers (23 ft.).

22.14. Non-committee records of the Senate include original Senate bills and related records of the Bill Clerk, 1969-86 (335 ft.); records of the Enrolling Clerk, 1977-86 (83 ft.); original nomination messages maintained by the Executive Clerk, 1977-86 (10 ft.); manuscript journals, roll call votes, and other records maintained by the Legislative Clerk, 1963-86 (60 ft.); lobbying reports and campaign contribution and expenditure reports maintained by the Office of Public Records, 1965-86 (166 ft., including microfilm); records of the Interparliamentary Services Office, 1963-82 (7 ft.); correspondence of the Office of Senate Chaplain, 1969-76 (1 ft.); case files of the Office of Legal Counsel, 1971-86 (2 ft., including microfiche) records of the Commission on the Operation of the Senate, 1975-77 (19 ft.); records relating to the 1985 Presidential inauguration maintained by the Senate Historical Office, 1984-85 (5 in); records of the Sergeant at Arms 1983-86 (3 ft., including video tapes); logbooks and correspondence maintained by the Office of the President of the Senate, 1969-80 (2 ft.); and electoral vote records, resignation letters, receipts, and other records maintained by the Secretary of the Senate, 1969-72 (5 ft.).

Back to Top

Records of Special Interest

Records of the Committee on Foreign Relations

22.15. In 1986, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar of Indiana, authorized the National Archives to open for public inspection most of the committee's records in its custody. The records opened by Senator Lugar include the committee's treaty files, legislative case files, unclassified executive communications, and petitions and memorials. As a result of this decision, the quantity of recently opened records added to those records already open, such as unpublished transcripts of public hearings and certain declassified transcripts of executive sessions, makes the records of the Committee on Foreign Relations the most accessible of any congressional committee for this period.

22.16. Certain security-classified records, nomination files, and correspondence (such as the Carl Marcy Papers and the J. William Fulbright correspondence) that are less than 20 years old remain subject to the access provisions of S. Res. 474, 96th Cong. Still closed are records of subcommittees of the Foreign Relations Committee, including the Subcommittee on Surveillance, 1973-74 (1 ft.); the Subcommittee on Multinational Corporations, 1973-80 (27 ft.); and the Subcommittees on Foreign Economic Policy and International Economic Policy, 1973-78 (18 ft.). Some of these records are security-classified or were obtained under subpoena, and as such may be restricted for more than 20 years.

Records of the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities

22.17. These records document the activities and investigations of the so-called Senate Watergate or Ervin Committee (after its chairman, Samuel J. Ervin, Jr., of North Carolina). The committee was established by S. Res. 60, 93rd Cong., approved February 7, 1973, to investigate illegal and improper activities alleged to have occurred during the 1972 Presidential campaign and election. The committee concluded its investigation on June 27, 1974, and pursuant to S. Res. 369, 93rd Cong., transferred its records to the Library of Congress for safekeeping and preservation. The Library of Congress arranged, boxed, described, and stored the records, and in 1980's as authorized by the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, transferred the records to the National Archives.

22.18. The records (435 ft.) include the following series: Administrative files, consisting of staff travel and expense records, and personnel material; staff files, consisting of subject and case files of lawyers, investigators, and research assistants; security files, which are similar to the staff files, but were maintained separately; financial records obtained during the investigation; general files, including hearing exhibits, copies of the final report, newspaper clippings, and subpoenas, among other records; computer tapes; oversize items; transcripts of executive and public sessions; 104 rolls of negative 16mm microfilm; and 198 sound recordings. The Library of Congress prepared a shelf list for the records. A more detailed name index to the records is also available. Access to the records is not governed by S. Res. 474, 96th Cong., but rather by S. Res. 393, 96th Cong. The access rules are specified in the report on this resolution (S. Rpt. 647, 96th Cong, 2nd see., Serial 13322).

Select Committee on Secret Military Assistance to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition

22.19.One of the most recent major accessions of Senate records transferred to the National Archives has come from the Select Committee on Secret Military Assistant to Iran and the Nicaraguan Opposition, also known as the Senate Iran-Contra Committee. The Senate established the committee by its approval of S. Res. 23, 100th Cong., on January 6, 1987, to investigate arms sales to Iran, the possible diversion of funds to the Contra, violations of Federal law, and the involvement of National Security Council (NSC) staff in the conduct of foreign policy. This investigation was conducted jointly with the House Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran.

22.20. The Senate committee's most sensitive records are physically in the National Archives building but remain under the administrative control of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Less sensitive records are under the administrative control of the National Archives (125 ft.), but only a portion of these-the public hearings transcripts, hearing exhibits, the final report, press release, newspaper clippings, videotapes of the hearings, and previously declassified documents-are accessible to the public. Questions regarding access to committee records other than those already in the public domain should be directed to the Senate's Office of Legal Counsel.

Records Relating to the Impeachment of Judge Harry E. Claiborne

22.21. For the first time since 1935, the Senate held in 1986 an impeachment trial for a Federal official, Judge Harry E. Claiborne of the District of Nevada. In 1984, Judge Claiborne has been convicted in Federal Court of income tax fraud. A specially appointed committee, chaired by Charles McC. Mathias of Maryland, heard testimony on the four articles of impeachment voted by the House. On October 9, 1986, Judge Claiborne was convicted on three of the four articles and removed from office.

22.22. The records of the impeachment (7 ft.) were maintained by the Committee on Rules and Administration and include transcripts of open and closed hearings and committee meetings; pleadings filed by the House of Representatives and Judge Clairborne; copies of testimony from Claiborne's two District Court trials; legal files containing the indictment, appellate decisions, and Internal Revenue Service decisions relevant to Claiborne's trials, material relating to impeachment precedents; and administrative correspondence and other records. There is also one computer tape containing the text of executive session transcripts.

Videotapes of Senate Floor Proceedings

22.23. On February 27, 1986, the Senate approved S. Res. 28, 99th Cong., to establish a test period during which the floor proceedings of the Senate, except for closed-door sessions, would be broadcast on closed circuit television. At the end of the trial, the Senate judged the experiment a success and in July 1986 regular coverage over the C-SPAN cable network began. Since then, the Sergeant at Arms has been responsible for the maintenance of these tapes, and it is anticipated that copies of the tapes will be available to the public at both the National Archives and the Library of Congress.

Back to Top

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Guide to the Records of the U.S. Senate