The Law: Congressional Access to Presidential Documents: The House Resolution of Inquiry


Louis Fisher is senior specialist in separation of powers at Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. This article is drawn from his new book, The Politics of Executive Privilege (Carolina Academic Press, 2003). His books include American Constitutional Law (5th ed., Carolina Academic Press, 2003).


The resolution of inquiry is a House procedure that seeks factual information from the executive branch, either from the president or department heads. The resolution is privileged and may be considered at any time after it is reported or discharged from committee. It applies only to requests for facts—not opinions—within the administration's control. Even when a resolution of inquiry is reported adversely from a committee and tabled on the floor, it frequently leads to the release of a substantial amount of information from the executive branch that can alter presidential policy in both military and domestic affairs.