Just the Facts

Five Facts on the Congressional Research Service

By No Labels
August 21, 2019 | Blog

CRS provides nonpartisan research exclusively for Congress.

The Congressional Research Service is a legislative branch agency chartered to provide nonpartisan, independent research exclusively for Congress. The agency provides a range of services, including publicized reports on major policy issues, tailored confidential briefings, expert testimony, and responses to individual legislative inquiries. [1]

CRS’ role has grown since it was established in 1914.

In 1914, Sen. Robert LaFollette and Rep. John Nelson secured funding to establish a special reference unit in the Library of Congress to help the legislative branch remain independent and informed. This unit was permanently authorized with the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 and named the Legislative Reference Service (LRS), but the LRS did little primary research and mostly transmitted analyses done by other agencies and organizations. The LRS’s role expanded with the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970, which rebranded the LRS as the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Now, the agency does primary research and analysis for Congress and directly supports the legislative process. [2]

Researchers are divided into 5 policy areas.

CRS researchers provide insight on five policy areas: American law, domestic social policy, foreign affairs, finance, and industry. The American law division advises Congress on its legislative and oversight powers, the limits of federal power, and the potential challenges that legislation could face. The domestic social policy division offers research on a plethora of issues including social welfare programs, immigration, criminal justice, and labor law. The foreign affairs, defense, and trade division is organized into sections that study diplomatic and military issues in individual countries as well as U.S. relations with international organizations like the U.N. The government and finance division studies the appropriations and legislative process as well as issues of intergovernmental relations and the census. Finally, the resources, science, and industry division covers a swath of technical areas ranging from the environment, to military technology, to transportation infrastructure. [3]

The CRS has a staff of more than 600 and a multimillion-dollar budget.

Lead by a director who is nominated by the librarian of Congress and confirmed by the Joint Committee on the Library of Congress, the CRS has a staff of more than. [4] These employees include lawyers, economists, librarians, and social, natural, and physical scientists.  The agency is funded through the annual Legislative Branch Appropriations Acts, and in 2018 it was granted a $119.28 million budget. [5]

Congress is also assisted by the CBO and GAO in its legislative and oversight duties.

In addition to the CRS, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) and Government Accountability Office (GAO) assist lawmakers in their legislative and oversight duties. The CBO provides reports on the fiscal implications of various policy options, and the GAO conducts independent audits, investigations, and evaluations of federal programs for oversight purposes. [4]

[1] http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/about/
[2] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33471.pdf
[3] http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/research/
[4] https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33471.pdf
[5] http://www.loc.gov/crsinfo/about/crs18_annrpt.pdf

Join us

Stay up to date.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.