Answered By: Colleen Bryant
Last Updated: Sep 22, 2017     Views: 736

According to the CQ Encyclopedia of American Government:

"The president traditionally sets forth a legislative agenda in the annual State of the Union address before a joint session of Congress. The president then sends legislative proposals to Congress in the form of draft bills." So, one major source for the president's legislative agenda for a given year is the State of the Union address.

To read George Bush's 2003 State of the Union Address, go to FDsys.

Also, news stories covering the State of the Union address will describe the president's legislative agenda. In Nexis Uni, if you search for <Bush AND "legislative agenda"> and limit your search to the first two or three months of 2003, you'll find news stories describing (or predicting) the agenda which the President laid out in his address.

Another excellent source for the topics of the president's agenda is the National Journal Group's Policy Central. In that database of political journalism, I searched for "bush legislative agenda," and found an article titled "Like Father, Like Son?", which includes a summary of some of the main issues of Bush's agenda.

But how do you translate the topics of the president's legislative agenda into specific congressional bills? There's no quick way to do it. But here are a few key sources for connecting a president's "pet projects" with specific legislation:

  • Presidential speeches and press conferences often refer to specific legislation which the president favors. These remarks are often recorded in the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents.
  • News stories in Nexis Uni. For example, in his State of the Union address in 2003, Bush identified malpractice or "medical liability reform" as one of his legislative priorities. I searched in Nexis Uni for <Bush AND malpractice> in the article headlines of U. S. newspapers for 2003, and came up with an article naming several bills which targeted the President's desired reforms.
  • Another e-resource, CQ Weekly, can provide you with details of congressional action on specific bills. You don't need to know the exact number or name of a bill, as long as you know the issue which it focused on. For this information, use the "Advanced Search," or browse by topic. 
  • For roll-call votes, use CQ Weekly's "Floor Vote Search."

Another place to find bills which correspond to the President's agenda is the Congressional Record, the official record of Congress's debates and proceedings. You can search the C.R. for keywords, such as malpractice, or for specific bill numbers:

ProQuest Congressional Publications  (The Advanced Search allows you to find legislative histories of different bills if they were enacted into law.)

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