Many Americans are curious about what happens in the Senate, especially when major legislation is under consideration. There are a number of ways to get information about Senate votes, depending on the type of information someone is looking for, ranging from roll calls listing which Senators voted and how they voted to tables of revisions charting the ways in which bills have changed since they were introduced. Roll calls in the Senate are considered public information, so they are accessible to all, including non-citizens.
If you want to get information about what is going on in the Senate at any given time, along with data on recent votes, one of your best bets in the Senate's web site, www.senate.gov. Usually, the front page lists the schedule for the week, unless the Senate is in recess, and the schedule often includes clickable links to specific pieces of legislature under consideration. Visitors to the site can also get information about Senate Committees and specific representatives in the Senate.
The Senate's information contains roll call tables dating back to 1989, for researchers who want information about how Senators voted during the current Senate session and in the past. In addition to retaining information about Senate votes, the Senate's site contains information about nominees confirmed by the Senate, along with text of bills which might be under consideration, and a history of any revisions.
THOMAS, a site maintained by the Library of Congress, also has information about Senate votes at thomas.loc.gov/. One useful thing about THOMAS is that it also contains the text of bills reviewed in the House, for people who want to compare versions of bills from the House and the Senate. THOMAS also has historical records, including texts of speeches, committee reports, and confirmation hearings.
Looking up data about Senate votes can be useful in a number of ways. Some people like to look at Senate votes when they are researching political candidates, to learn whether the candidate's voting record reflects his or her claimed political views. Senate votes also reveal who recommended changes to a bill. Furthermore, roll call records show which Senators abstained from voting, which can sometimes be very interesting, as Senators often abstain when they are afraid of stirring up controversy. Records of Senate votes can also be used to chart the history of support for a bill, and to examine changing ideas in the United States; some bills, for example, are introduced for several years before they are finally accepted.