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Amendment to H.R. 15279, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Fiscal Year 1915 Appropriations Act, June 13, 1914

Senator Robert M. La Follette’s amendment to a federal appropriations bill for the 1915 fiscal year authorized the Library of Congress “to employ competent persons to prepare . . . indexes, digests and compilations of laws” needed by legislators. Supported by Representative John M. Nelson of Wisconsin in the House, it passed Congress and was signed into law on July 15, 1914.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Amendment to H.R. 15279, Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Fiscal Year 1915 Appropriations Act, June 13, 1914

The Legislative Reference Service

Progressive-era reformers relied upon experts, to guide their policy proposals. They believed that the best legislator is a well-informed legislator, so a dozen states established legislative reference bureaus between 1903 and 1913. In 1911 Senator Robert L. Owen Jr. of Oklahoma proposed such a service for Congress, an idea later supported by Senator Robert La Follette Sr. of Wisconsin. In 1914 Congress created the Legislative Reference Service (LRS). The LRS—renamed the Congressional Research Service in 1970––objectively compiles and analyzes information requested by members of Congress for legislative purposes.

The aim of the new provision is to make serviceable in suitable form for immediate use the legislative resources of our national library.

Senator Robert La Follette Sr., La Follette’s Weekly, July 4, 1914