Federal Legislative History Databases & Sources

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How To Guide

Federal Statutes & Codes

Types of Federal Legislative History Documents

Examples:  Newer Federal Acts

Example:  Older Federal Act

Federal Legislative History Checklist

Ohio & Other States' Legislative History

Compiled Legislative Histories

ProQuest Congressional

CIS Index & Microform Sets






Other Web Sites



Finding Older Materials

Congressional Index

Congressional Record

Bloomberg Law

See also powerpoint presentation  Free Federal Legislative History Sources on the Web or mediasite presentation Federal Legislative History on the Web.

A. Compiled legislative histories -  May be available for major legislation. 

B. ProQuest Congressional -  in Law Library, but not on wireless.  The Law Library's version contains:

  • House and Senate Reports (1819-2013 )
  • House and Senate Documents (1817-2013)
  • CIS Legislative Histories for passed legislation 1969-present.
  • Committee Prints (1993-2004), (Abstracts & Indexing – 1970-current)
  • Hearings (abstracts & indexing 1970- , selected full text 1988-)
  • Bills (1989- )
  • Public Laws (1988- )
  • Daily Congressional Record (1985- )
  • News articles from Washington Post (1977- ); Roll Call (1989- ), The Hill (1995- )

Cleveland Public Library's version of ProQuest Congressional also contains:

  • US Congressional Committee Hearings Index, Unreported Hearings Index, Committee Prints Index.
  • Some full text of older hearings and prints.

C. CIS Index and Microform sets

See Congressional Information Service Legislative Resources guide for more information.

ProQuest Congressional, available via C|M|Law Library and the Cleveland Public Library , contains some of the following CIS products:

  • CIS Legislative Histories (1970- ).  List all the legislative history documents available for a Public Law.   Example of a CIS Legislative History:  LexisNexis® 103 CIS Legis. Hist. P.L. 272.  In print, 1970-1983 Legislative Histories are included in the annual and compiled CIS Abstracts volumes; Legislative Histories after 1983 are compiled in separate annual volumes.    In LexisNexis:  CIS Legislative Histories (1970- ).
  • CIS Index, Abstracts, and Microfiche.   In Law Library (Base level Microforms area) KF49 .C62 (Index 1970-2002; microfiche 1970-2004).  Most complete and detailed indexing and abstracting of Congressional publications.  Includes Committee Hearings, Committee Prints, House and Senate Reports, House and Senate Documents, Senate Executive Documents and Reports, special publications, and Public Laws.   Includes extensive indexes; in addition to subject/name index, can search by bill number, report number, document number, and more.   First, look in the CIS Index to get citations ("accession numbers," eg, H522-2) to documents.  [The microfiche citation is the year and the accession number (eg, 1998 H522-2).]    Documents are summarized in the CIS Abstracts volumes, and full text is provided in the microfiche collection.  For 1970-1983, legislative histories are included in the annual and compiled CIS Abstracts volumes.  For 1984 and after, legislative histories for all Public Laws are compiled in annual Legislative History volumes.  See "CIS Legislative Histories" for more information.

For Public Laws older than 1970 -  ProQuest Congressional, available via C|M|Law Library and the Cleveland Public Library, contains some of the following CIS products:

  • CIS US Congressional Committee Hearings Index and Microfiche Library (1833-1969).  Indexed by subjects, organizations and personal names, title, bill number, report number, and document number.  Indexes cite to a publication's "accession number," and full text is provided in the microfiche collection.  Collection includes transcripts, oral and written statements, questions and discussions between committee members and witnesses, exhibits and submitted materials, as well as related reports, studies, and correspondence.
  • CIS Index to Unpublished US Senate Committee Hearings (1823-1980).  Indexed by subject and organization, personal name, title, and bill numbers.  Many of the transcripts are from closed, executive session meetings.
  • CIS Index to Unpublished U.S. House of Representatives Committee Hearings (1833- 1968).  Indexed by subject and organization, personal name, title, and bill number.  Provides citation to full text on microfiche.  [For detailed explanation of unpublished hearings, see National Archives' Library Resources for Administrative History: Congressional Hearings and Committee Prints.]
  • CIS US Serial Set Index and Microfiche Library (1789-1969)   Includes Congressional Conference reports, Committee reports, Journals, and other publications (eg, investigation records, directories, manuals, and histories), as well as Executive branch and nongovernmental publications (eg, annual reports, official communications, and periodical publications).   Indexed by subject, report number, and document number, as well as names of individuals and organizations for private relief and related actions.   Index volumes indicate "Serial Volume Number" (eg, 2107-3) and "Publication Series Number" (eg, H.rp. 500).  Use Serial Volume Number and, if needed, Publication Series Number, to retrieve desired publications on microfiche.


D.   LexisNexis

Pick the "Research Tasks" Tab and select "Legislative History" for a handy template.  However, all the listed resources may not be in your price plan.

Legal > Legislation and Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Legislative Histories.  Includes over 20 topical compiled legislative histories, plus CIS Legislative Histories. 1970 -current.

Legal > Federal Legal - U.S. > United States Code Service (USCS) Materials > USCS - Public Laws. (1988- )  Includes Statutes at Large cites and references to U.S. Code sections.

Legal > Federal Legal - U.S. > Archived Bill Text & Tracking. 1989 - previous year.

Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Congressional Full Text Bills - Current Congress OR Full Text of Bills - Historical  (Full texts of bills from 101st Congress  1989 to one year ago).

Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Hearing Transcripts > Congressional Hearings Summaries OR CQ Transcriptions. (1995- ).

Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Prints (1993- ).

Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Congressional Record by Section (current Congress); Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Congressional Record Historical (99th Congress- ).

Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Reports.  Selected coverage of the 101st and 102nd Congresses (1990-1992); full coverage of the 103rd Congress forward (1993- ).

Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > House and Senate Docs.  (1995- )  House and Senate documents are executive communications from the President of the United States to Congress that cover a variety of issues.

Legal > Federal Legal - U.S. > Executive Branch Materials > Public Papers of the President (March 24,1979 - ).

LexisNexis Legislative Impact -  Go to Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. category, and you will see in the list "Legislative and Regulatory Impact."  Pending Bills - Tells what US Code sections will be affected.  Passed Public Laws - Tells what Code sections the public law affected, what modifications were made to the public law by subsequent legislation.

Lexis Advance - Some ot the primary documents are on Lexis Advance, but the CIS Legislative Histories are not, as of 2/19/13.  Congressional Record only goes back to 2007 (110th Congress).    Federal Legislative Bill History - contains Bill Summaries, Committee Reports, and President's Messages, goes back to 2009.  Does not appear to have the hearings, committee prints and committee reports that Lexis.com has.

E. Westlaw

Compiled Legislative Histories and Legislative Documents
U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History
Provides several topical compiled legislative histories databases (eg, Federal Immigration, Federal Taxation, Arnold & Porter Collection > Arnold & Porter Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002), as well as databases with Congressional materials and testimony (eg, Federal Taxation - Joint Committee on Taxation (JCS) Prints and US Congressional Testimony).

WestlawNext - see Legislative History - right hand bar lists Arnold & Porter Legislative Histories, etc.

U.S. Public Laws
U.S. Federal Materials > Federal Statutes > U.S. Public Laws (current) OR United States Public Laws 1973-2008.  When you pull up a public law, there are links to legislative history documents available on Westlaw in the left hand column.  These appear to start with the 98th Congress (1983-84).

On WestlawNext, typing the name of the Act into the search bar, and postfiltering for Statutes should work.  You can also try searching the USCA  Popular Names Table.

United States Statutes at Large
U.S. Federal Materials > Federal Statutes > United States Statutes at Large 1789-1972.

WestlawNext-United States Statutes at Large

Congressional Bills
U.S. Federal Materials > Bill Tracking to gain access to databases containing Congressional Bills from the 104th Congress (1995-96) to the present (eg, Congressional Bills - 104th Congress to Current and Congressional Bills - 109th Congress).  

WestlawNext - Federal Bill Tracking (current Congress).  If you type Congressional Bills into the main search box, you can retrieve bills back to the 104th Congress.

Committee Hearings
U.S. Federal Materials > U.S. Congressional Testimony
Selective coverage 1993-1996; full coverage from the 103rd Congress from 1996 to the present. 
On WestlawNext - U.S. Congressional Testimony and U.S. Political Transcripts

Committee Prints
Westlaw does not have a database for Committee prints.

U.S. Federal Materials > U.S. Code Congressional & Administrative News > U.S. Code Congressional & Administrative News
Public Laws 1973- ; selected Reports 1948-1989; all Reports 1990- ; Executive Orders 1936- ; Presidential Proclamations 1984- ; Signing Statements 1986- ; Presidential Messages 2000- ; and other materials.

WestlawNext - Legislative History - United States Code

Congressional Record
U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History > Congressional Record (1985- ).  WestlawNext - Congressional Record

Presidential Statements and Documents
U.S. Federal Materials > Other Administrative & Executive Materials > Daily Presidential Documents
Press conferences, speeches, and formal announcements for 1993 to present; includes some Signing Statements.  

 U.S. GAO Federal Legislative Histories - on WestlawNext.  Also on Classic Westlaw.  Covers 1921-1995 and PL 104-191 (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act).


From the Browse Widget, click on Legislative History - contains the above

Legislative History - United States Code contains all congressional committee reports, including reports on bills that did not become law, beginning with 1990. Also sets out the legislative history of public laws as reprinted in U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) from 1948 through 1989, as well as the legislative history of securities laws beginning with 1933 and presidential signing statements reprinted in USCCAN beginning with 1986.

F. Thomas

  • Legislative Web site maintained by Library of Congress.
  • Public Laws from 93rd Congress (1973-74) onward.  [The public laws section indicates what years correspond to what Congress.]
  • Bill text from 101st Congress (1989-90) onward.
  • US Congressional Committee Reports from 104th Congress (1995-96) onward.
  • Congressional Record from 101st Congress (1989-90) onward.
  • Thomas Bill Summary and Status lists legislative history documents for a piece of legislation, including: bills in the same Congressional session, relevant sections of the Congressional Record, and committee and conference reports.  Listed documents are linked to full text on the Web, when available, roughly from 1989 onward.  Bill summary and status information is available back to 1973.
  • Links to other resources and historical documents, such as A Century of Lawmaking For A New Nation: US Congressional Documents and Debates 1774-1875.

See Also:  Free Federal Legislative History Sources on the Web (PowerPoint)  or  Free Federal Legislative History Sources on the Web (MediaSite presentation).


Congress.gov Beta -  Will replace Thomas.gov at the end of 2014.  Currently, contains bills 1993-current, both passed legislation and not passed. When you retrieve a bill, click on the Major Actions tab for a history with links to legislative history documents.  Also has Congressional Record and House and Senate Reports.


G. Federal Digital System (FDsys)

   FDsys includes:

  • Public Laws (1995- )
  • Statutes at Large (2003-2006)
  • Bills (1993- )
  • House & Senate Reports (1995- )
  • Conference Reports (current & a few archived)
  • Congressional Record Daily (1994- )
  • Congressional Record - bound (1999-2001)
  • Congressional Record Index - Daily (1983- )
  • History of Bills (1983- )
  • Committee Hearings (1995- )
  • Committee Prints (1987- )
  • Congressional Documents (1994-)
  • Weekly/Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (1993-)

See Also:  Free Federal Legislative History Sources on the Web (PowerPoint)  or  Free Federal Legislative History Sources on the Web (MediaSite presentation).


H. Other Web Sites


I. USCCAN   United States Code Congressional and Administrative News
Law Library (Reference & 2nd floor) KF48 .U5 (1942- ) and on Westlaw (1948- ).  Contains Public Laws as well as selected Committee Reports, Presidential Proclamations, Executive Orders, and Presidential Signing Statements.  Does not include bills which were not passed.  On WestlawNext - Legislative History - United States Code


J. HeinOnline

Congressional Record Vols. 1-59 (1873-1920), 124-149 pt.20 (1978-2003).  Debates of Congress collection includes Annals of the Congress of the United States (1789-1824), Register of Debates in Congress (1825-1837), Congressional Globe (1833-1873), American State Papers (1789-1838), and Journals of the Continental Congress (1774-1789).  HeinOnline also contains Statutes at Large, presidential documents and compiled legislative histories.

Also contains selected full text hearings from the Covington & Burling collection, from the 71st Congress (1927) through the 103rd Congress (1994), with more years to be added to bring the collection up to date.  Click on Congressional Hearings under Browse Options at the top of the page.

U.S. Code -  Copies of the official U.S.Code that is published by the government every six years. 1925 through 2006 editions are available.

U.S. Presidential Library -  Includes Weekly/Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents, Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States.


K. Finding Older Materials

Before a certain date, you may not be able to get the legislative history document electronically.  Older items can be found using:


L. Congressional Index

  • Commerce Clearing House looseleaf publication (1937- ).
  • Indexes all public general bills by subject and sponsor.
  • Provides digests/abstracts of each bill.
  • Multiple finding aides, including status table of actions taken on bills (eg, hearings) and list of pending reorganization plans, treaties, and nominations.
  • Does not have actual text of bills, debates, reports, or laws.
  • Law Library has 1957/58- . Reference & 2nd floor KF49 .C6.


M. Congressional Record

  • US Government Printing Office publication (43rd Congress- ; 1873- ).
  • Only print source of full-text of Congressional floor debates.  However, like official US Code, print publication very slow to come out.
  • Page numbers of individual issues are not the same as page numbers in permanent bound volumes.
  • "History of Bills and Resolutions" published in fortnightly index.  Includes bill digest/abstract and sponsor(s), as well as committee(s) to which referred and other legislative actions; also specifies Congressional Record page at which action reported.  Does not reference hearings.
  • At end of each Congressional session, "History of Bills and Resolutions" completely cumulated in index volume of Congressional Record's permanent bound set.
  • 1994 onward available via FDsys.  Law Library has 1873- (2nd floor KF35 .U57 and base level Microforms).
  • For videos of Congressional Proceedings, matched with the Congressional Record, see C-SPAN Congressional Chronicle.


Bloomberg Law

Click on Legislative & Regulatory Tab, Select Search Legislative to access:

Click on Legislative & Regulatory Tab, Select Legislative Resources to access:

  • A current awareness page showing the latest news, firm research, blogs, bills, Congressional Record
  • Links to specific U.S. Code and legislative history databases.

Set up an Alert for new bills, or any legislative history document search. 



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