This is the "What are Hearings?" page of the "Congressional Hearings" guide.
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Congressional Hearings   Tags: subject_guide  

This guide provides an overview on how to locate the full-text of congressional committee hearings
Last Updated: Sep 3, 2014 URL: Print Guide

What are Hearings? Print Page

Who Testifies at Hearings?

There are primarily four types of groups who testify at hearings.

Historical or Political Figures - individuals who may have relevant knowledge pertaining to the issue at hand.

Famous Individuals - these may include actors, singers or other well-known individuals who advocate for a piece of legislation.  They may not be affected by the legislation personally but may know someone who is.  These individuals often bring heightened attention to the hearing's topic.

Affected Individuals - these are individuals who may be impacted by the topic discussed at the hearing.

Experts - these individuals are knowledgeable in an area and should provide unbiased information regarding the issue.


Types of Hearings

Hearings typically fall into four categories:

  • Legislative : These hearings are held by Senate or House committees to gather information regarding a bill that has been introduced or may be introduced.  An example of this type of hearing is the 2009 Senate Finance Committee hearings on Health Care Reform.

  • Oversight : These hearings are held to monitor the progress of federal agencies in implementing parts of enacted legislation.  An example of this type of hearing is when Secretary of Treasury , Timothy Geithner, testifies before Congress regarding the implemention and progress that has resulted from the passage of the Trouble Asset Relief Program (TARP).

  • Investigative : Congress will hold an investigative hearing to determine whether an allegation of wrongdoing by a public official is valid.  Examples of investigative hearings are Watergate, Iran Contra, and the Titanic.

  • Nomination : Under the Constitution, the Senate shall hold hearings to advise and give consent to the President's nominations for the cabinet, Supreme Court and other government offices. Examples of nomination hearings include the hearings for Sonia Sotomayor as Supreme Court Justice and Hilary Clinton as Secretary of State.

Additional Reading

For more information about Congressional Hearings, please consult the following sources:

Sachs, R. C. (2003). Hearings in the U.S. Senate: A Guide for Preparation and Procedure. Retrieved from

Sevetson, A. (2007). Hearings and the LexisNexis® Congressional Hearings Digital Collection. Retrieved from


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