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How to Cite US Government Documents in MLA, APA Citation Style: Congressional Resolutions

Congressional Resolutions

For material not specifically covered in the MLA Handbook, the MLA refers users to The Bluebook: A Uniform System of Citation. The examples below are modeled on the MLA guidelines for Congressional Reports and on The Bluebook guidelines for citing Congressional resolutions (2010, p. 127):

Simple Resolution

Notes: 

  • Simple resolutions (from one chamber of Congress) and concurrent resolutions do not have the force of law and are cited like unenacted bills.
  • To assist  the reader in locating the resolution, "a parallel citation to a committee hearing, legislative report, or the Congressional Record may also be provided."

In the example below, 139 Cong. Rec.1225 refers to the volume (139) and page number (1225) of the Congressional Record where the resolution was introduced.

United States. Cong. Senate. Resolution Amending Senate Resolution. 103rd Cong. 1st sess. S. Res. 34 (1993). 139 Cong. Rec. 1225. Washington: GPO, 1998. 

If accessed via a database, you may need to append something like the following: 

.....Proquest Congressional Publications. Web. 21 May 2013.

Concurrent Resolution

Beginning in the 55th Congress (1897), concurrent resolutions passed by both Chambers have been printed as separate lists within the official "reporter" of US Laws -- the Statutes at Large. The reference below includes a parallel citation to its location in Statutes at Large - 121. Stat. 2590 (volume 121, page 2590).

United States. Cong. House. 2001 District of Columbia Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run -- Capitol Grounds Authorization. 103rd Cong. 1st sess. H. Con. Res. 123. 121 Stat. 2590 (2007).

Joint Resolutions

The reference below identifies a joint resolution that was not enacted (because of a presidential veto). This example includes the parallel citation to its location in the Congressional Record -- 132.Cong. Rec 9611 (volume 132, page 9611).

United States. Cong. Prohibiting the sale to Saudi Arabia of certain defense articles and related defense services. S.J.Res. 316. 99th Cong. 2nd sess. 132 Cong. Rec. 9611 (1986) (unenacted)

The reference below passed both the House and the Senate, and was signed by the president; therefore, it has become law and the reference should include its location in the official "reporter" for US laws, the Statutes at Large. 115 Stat. 224 refers to volume 115, page 224 of the Statutes at Large.

United States. Cong. Joint Resolution To authorize the use of United States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks launched against the United States. 107th Cong. S.J.Res 23. 115 Stat. 224 (2001).

On the web, or in a database? The MLA Handbook refers users to Section 5.6.2 c.,  "Instead of concluding with Print as the medium of publication, record the following information in sequence:

1. Title of the database or Web site (italicized)
2. Medium of publications consulted (Web)
3. Date of access (day, month, and year) " (MLA Handbook 187)


Example: United States. Cong. Prohibiting the sale to Saudi Arabia of certain defense articles and related defense services. S.J.Res. 316. 99th Cong. 2nd sess. 132 Cong. Rec. 9611 (1986) (unenacted)  Proquest Congressional Publications. Web. 22 May 2013.

Citing Government Documents in the Body of the Paper (Parenthetical Citations)

MLA Style -- References in the body of the paper

MLA documentation style uses brief parenthetical citations in the text that lead to the list of works cited. To cite government documents in parenthetical references, the MLA Handbook refers users to page 224, Section 6.4.5. Citing a Work by a Corporate Author.

Following MLA Style guidelines, the first element in a parenthetical reference (generally, the author) should correspond to the first element in the List of Works Cited.

If you are referencing a number of legislative documents, you will need to include enough information in the parenthetical reference to direct the reader to the correct reference in the List of Works Cited.

"When giving the name of a corporate author in parentheses, shorten terms that are commonly abbreviated...." (MLA Handbook 224) e.g., (U.S. Cong. House. Comm. on House Administration).

As you can see, even with the abbreviations, this makes for a fairly long reference and may make your paper more difficult to read. One alternative is to include the reference in a sentence.

"In 2001, the United States Congressional Committee on House Administration published their report on the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2001 (House Rept. 131).  In the report, ..."

If you need to reference a number of legislative or legal documents throughout the body of your paper, you may wish to use another citation style, such as the Chicago numbered note style or APA style. You will need to choose the citation style that best fits your needs (and approved by your instructor) and use it consistently throughout the paper.