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Federal Legislative History

This guide provides an overview of how to locate federal legislative history.

Committee Reports

Committee Reports are usually considered to be the most important documents of a legislative history. Reports are issued by House, Senate, and Joint Conference Committees. They often contain an analysis of the intent of the proposed legislation and the committee's rationale for its recommendations.

The Committee Reports are issued as part of the Serial Set, which contains the sequentially numbered Senate and House Documents and Senate and House Reports for each session of Congress.

Serial Set
LAW FEDERAL 1st floor  KF 12 .U51

Committee Reports Available Online

ProQuest Congressional Restricted Resource This subscription Internet database provides full-text of committee reports from 1989 to the present.

LexisNexis: The Committee Reports file (LEGIS;CMTRPT) contains full-text of House and Senate committee reports from 1990 to present.

Westlaw: From 1948 through 1989, the USCCAN database contains only the Congressional Committee Reports reprinted in the

United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN)
LAW FEDERAL 1st floor  KF 48 .U552 or Westlaw].

From 1990 to date, this database contains all congressional committee reports, including reports on bills that did not become law.

Congress.gov includes committee reports from the 104th Congress (1995) to present.

The Library of Congress's American Memory Project has reports from 1789 to 1838 online as part of the American State Papers, and from 1833 to 1917 has selected reports online as part of the U.S. Serial Set.

FDsys has access through its new digital document platform to reports from the 104th Congress (1995) to present.

The GPO's Committee Reports collection on FDsys includes committee reports from the 104th Congress (1995) to present.

Committee Reports Available in Print

Committee reports are available in paper format from the 27th Congress (1833) to date, as part of the Serial Set.

From 1789 to 1838, reports are part of the

American State Papers
LAW FEDERAL 1st floor  KF 11 .A48 1998r (also available on HeinOnline)

US Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN), contains selected full-text House and Senate reports from the 78th Congress (1943) to date. The reports are included in the "Legislative History" volumes. This set also includes partial reprints of some reports and citation information for others.

Hint: If you've looked everywhere, and can't find a report, put the information into Google Book Search.

Committee Reports Available on Microfiche

The most complete source of Committee Reports available at the Wise Law Library is the CIS microfiche set. House, Senate, and Joint Conference Committee Reports from the 1st Congress forward are available on microfiche as part of this set. To locate reports in this set, you will need the American State Papers or Serial Set citation and/or the CIS number. Please contact a Reference Librarian if you need help.

Bills and Amendments

The first bill in the House of Representatives in each Congress is identified as H.R. 1, and each subsequent House bill is numbered sequentially. Likewise, the first bill introduced in the Senate is identified as S. 1, and each subsequent Senate bill is numbered sequentially.

If you know the public law number, you can find the bill number in the Statutes at Large. To obtain the bill numbers for early Congresses (1st to 57th, 1789 - 1903), consult:

Legislative Reference Checklist
LAW FEDERAL 1st floor  KF 49 .L43 1982 (also available on HeinOnline)

Bills Online

Proquest Congressional indexes bills from the 1st Congress to the most recent Congress, and provides full-text and status of bills from the 101st Congress (1989) to present.

Congress.gov includes the full-text of bills from the 101st Congress (1989) to present.

FDsys has access through its new digital document platform to bills from the 103th Congress (1993) to present.

LexisNexis - Offers full-text of bills introduced in the House and Senate since the 101st Congress, and tracking of congressional bills for the same time period. From the main search page, select "Legislation & Politics," select the subcategory "US Congress," then select the subcategory "Full Text of Bills - Historical."

Westlaw - Offers full-text of bills from the 106th Congress to date in the following databases: CONG-BILLTXT (for the most recent sessions of Congress), CONG-BILLTXT110, CONG-BILLTXT109, CONG-BILLTXT108, CONG-BILLTXT107, and CONG-BILLTXT106. Bill Tracking for the current session is available in the database US-BILLTRK and for older bills (from 1991) in BILLTRK-OLD. (Note: BILLTRK-OLD combines federal bills with state bills).

The Library of Congress hosts House Bills & Resolutions from the 6th to the 42nd Congress (1799 to 1872), Senate Bills & Resolutions (from the 16th to 42nd Congress (1819 to 1872), and Senate Joint Resolutions (from the 18th to the 42nd Congresses (1823-1872) at Congress.gov.

Committee Hearings

Hearings are held by standing and special committees of the House and Senate about particular issues of concern or about proposed legislation. In legislative history research, the hearings about proposed legislation are typically the most useful because they often provide information about the purpose or expected effect of a particular piece of legislation.

Hearings are not held on all proposed legislation and not all hearings are published. In addition, hearings relevant to a particular piece of legislation may have been held and published during a session of Congress prior to the one in which the law was eventually enacted.

Hearings Online

The resources listed below are the best sites for locating hearings online:


Westlaw

Westlaw offers selected recent congressional testimony in the databases listed below:

- USTESTIMONY contains selected transcripts of oral or written statements from US congressional committee hearings from 1993 - 1995; full coverage begins in 1996.

- USPOLTRANS contains transcripts of testimony from selected US congressional committee hearings since 1994.

- CONGTMY contains congressional testimony, transcripts, and official documents from the committees of the Congress from 1995 to current, as provided by NewsRoom.


ProQuest Congressional

ProQuest Congressional Restricted Resource This subscription Internet database includes the full-text for only a limited number of recent hearings. Lexis offers selected recent hearings in the files listed below:

- Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony (LEGIS;CNGTST): includes written statements of witnesses testifying before congressional committees since 1993.

- Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Hearings Summaries (LEGIS;HEARNG): contains recent transcripts of congressional hearings, individual written testimony of witnesses and detailed reports of select committee hearings.

- FDCH Political Transcripts (LEGIS;POLTRN): contains transcripts of congressional hearings since 1995.

- Federal News Service (LEGIS;FEDNEW): includes a few congressional hearings since 1988 that relate to major news stories.

- National Narrowcast Network Transcripts (LEGIS;NNNTRN): provides transcripts of select congressional hearings from October 1993 through July 2000.


FDsys

FDsys has access through its new digital document platform to hearings from the 105th Congress (1997) to present.

House Committee Hearings [http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/browse/committeetab.action] - Selected recent house hearings are organized by committee and available at this site.

Hearings on Microfiche

All of the hearings listed in the CIS indexes mentioned above are available on microfiche. To locate a hearing, you need the CIS year and the CIS number assigned to each hearing.

- House & Senate hearings from 1970-current are in the library’s Microforms Collection on the 1st Floor.

- House & Senate hearings from 1869-1970 are available at Norlin.

Committee Prints / House and Senate Documents

A congressional committee may request a special study in a specific subject area relating to proposed legislation, called a committee print. Committee prints often provide valuable information such as statistical analyses or historical background research.

House and Senate Documents are a diverse group of non-congressional materials ordered printed by Congress. These documents may include annual or special reports to Congress, special studies or background information, and Senate treaty documents.

Committee Prints / House & Senate Documents Online

Proquest Congressional (available through the Wise Law Library’s Research Resources page): This database indexes committee prints from the 21st Congress (1830) to the most recent Congress, and provides full-text of committee prints from the 103rd Congress (1993) to the most recent Congress. The database includes abstracts and indexing for House & Senate Documents from 1970 to current, and indexing for House & Senate Documents from 1789 to 1969.

Lexis: The Committee Prints file (LEGIS;CMTPRN) provides the full-text of selected committee prints from the 104th Congress (1995) to present. The House & Senate Documents file (LEGIS:HSDOCS) has the full text of document from the 104th Congress (1995) to current.

FDsys includes committee prints from the 105th Congress (1997) to present and House & Senate Documents form the 104th Congress (1995) to the present.

Committee Prints / House & Senate Documents in Print

The most complete source of committee prints and House & Senate documents available in the Library is the CIS microfiche set. House Documents, Senate Documents, House, Senate, and Joint Conference Committee Prints are available on microfiche as part of this set. Committee prints from 1970 to current are in the Microforms Collection, 1st Floor. To locate documents or committee prints in this set, you will need the CIS number from your research in the indexes.

Congressional Record

The Congressional Record is the primary source for floor debates in Congress. However, it is important to note that this is not a verbatim transcript of congressional debates, because legislators frequently add to, delete from, and revise their statements. The Congressional Record is published daily when either house is in session.

Congressional Record Online

ProQuest Congressional (available via the Wise Law Library Research Resources page): This database includes the Congressional Record from the 99th Congress (1985) to current.

HeinOnline Restricted Resource has selected legislative histories available in a full-text, fully searchable format. Click on the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library.

LexisNexis: The Congressional Record file (LEGIS;RECORD) contains the Congressional Record from the 99th Congress (1985) to date.

Westlaw: The Congressional Record is available in the CR database from the 99th Congress (1985) to date.

Congress.gov - includes the Congressional Record from the 101st Congress (1989) to present.

FDsys offers access through its new digital document platform to the Congressional Record from 1994 to present.

Congressional Record in Print

Congressional Record
LAW FEDERAL 1st floor  KF 35 .U583

- The Congressional Record is originally published as a softbound daily version, and then repaginated and bound as a hardcover version. There are some differences in the two versions, but probably the most important difference is that the two versions do not use the same system of pagination.

- The bound Daily Digest volumes for the 80th Congress (1947) to date give a history of bills enacted into public law in table form. This table lists the public law number, the bill number, committees to which the bill was referred, dates and numbers of committee reports, and the date of passage by each house with a citation to the appropriate pages.

- The "Index" volumes contain a section on the history of bills and resolutions. It is arranged by bill number, and gives report numbers and pages on which the measures were debated.

Finding Congressional Debates Prior to 1873

Prior to the first publication of the Congressional Record in 1873, congressional debates were reported in the Annals of Congress [1st Congress (1789)-18th Congress (1824)], the Register of Debates [18th Congress (1824)-25th Congress (1834)], and the Congressional Globe [23rd Congress (1833)-42nd Congress (1873)].

Annals of Congress [HeinOnline]

The Register of Debates
LAW RARE BOOKS basement  KF 35 .U56 [HeinOnline].

The Congressional Globe
LAW RARE BOOKS basement  KF 35 .U57 [HeinOnline]. All three publications are available online at the Library of Congress's American Memory Project at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/.

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