Types of Federal Legislative History Documents

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Federal Legislative History Databases & Sources

Examples:  Newer Federal Acts

Example:  Older Federal Act

Federal Legislative History Checklist

Ohio & Other States' Legislative History

Bills
Committee Hearings
Committee Prints
House and Senate Reports
Congressional Debates
Conference Committee Reports
Presidential Statements

Bills

  • How Bills Are Cited:  H.R. or S. Bill Number, Congressional number 1st or 2nd Session (Year)
    Example:  H.R. 1758, 103rd Congress 2nd Session (1993)
  • A bill consists of changes, additions or deletions to one or more sections of the U.S. Code.
  • The language of the final bill as passed, and prior versions of that bill, may indicate legislative intent.  This is because language may have been inserted, deleted, or changed in various versions of that bill.
  • Bills introduced but not passed do not carry over to the next Congress.  Such bills may be re-introduced as a new bill.  Therefore, besides looking at prior versions of that bill in that Congress, look at prior versions of that bill and/or similar bills in previous Congresses.

 

Bill Text Is Available From:

(1)  ProQuest Congressional -  Searchable full text of bills (1989- ).  Database in law library (but not on wireless) or via Cleveland Public Library (remotely with CPL library card.)
(2)  Thomas -  Searchable full text of bills 101st Congress- (1989/90- ); Summaries and Status Reports 93rd Congress- (1973/74- ).  Congress.gov -  Bills (1993-).  [Congress.gov Beta will eventually replace Thomas.]
(3)  FDsys (1993-) -  FDsys Search; FDsys Browse.
(4)  LexisNexis > 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 101st Congress- (1989/90- ).
(5)  Westlaw > U.S. Federal Materials > Bill Tracking.  Includes databases of bills 104th Congress- (1995/96- ); eg, Congressional Bills - 104th Congress to Current and Congressional Bills - 109th Congress). 
(6)  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.
(7)  BloombergLawHouse and Senate Bills 1993- current
 

FOR OLDER BILLS:

(6)  Congressional Record - FDSys (1994- ) -  FDsys Search; FDsys Browse; Law Library 2nd floor KF35 .U57 (1873- ); Law Library Base level Microfilm (vol.1- , 1873- ).  Print edition of Congressional Record includes indexes by topic and bill number.  Find bill text on the day the bill was introduced.
(7)  Microforms -  House Bills (100th Congress- );  Senate Bills (108th Congress- ); Final Cumulative Finding Aid, House & Senate Bills KF49 .F5 F55 (102nd Congress- ).
(8)  Library of Congress.  American Memory.  A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation:  U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates, 1774-1873 -  Bills and ResolutionsSenate Bills 1819-1873; House Bills 1799-1873
(9)  Congressional bills, resolutions, and laws also available at Cleveland Public Library (microform, 93rd Congress- ).

 

Finding Relevant Bills


Committee Hearings

  • Published committee hearings (not all are published) contain transcripts of the testimony, exhibits and, occasionally, a reprint of the proposed bill. 
  • Testimony of a senator or representative sponsoring the legislation is more persuasive than that of a representative of a special interest group.  

Committee Hearings Are Available From:

(1)  ProQuest Congressional -  Database in Law Library (but not on wireless) ,abstracts & indexing 1970- , selected full text 1988-current.  Cleveland Public Library (remotely with CPL library card) has historical indexing and some older full text.
(2)  FDsysFDsys Search; FDsys Browse (99th Congress- ; 1985/86- ).  
(3)  LexisNexis  -  Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Hearing Transcripts;  select Congressional Hearings Summaries  or  CQ Transcriptions.  For January 1995- .
(4)  Westlaw - U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History > U.S. Congressional Testimony (USTESTIMONY).  103rd Congress- (1993/94- ).  WestlawNext -U.S. Congressional Testimony and U.S. Political Transcripts
(5)  Paper Indexes and full text of hearings on Microform:  (GOOD SOURCE FOR OLDER HEARINGS)

(a)  CIS/Index -  Base level, Microform area  KF 49 .C62.  1970- ; full text on microfiche. 
(b)  CIS U.S. Congressional Committee Hearings Index -  Base level, Microform area KF 40 .C56.  1833-1969; full text on microfiche.
(c)  CIS Unpublished U.S. Senate Committee Hearings Index -  Base level, Microform area KF 40 .C57.  1823-1980; full text on microfiche.
(d)  CIS Unpublished U.S. House of Representatives Committee Hearings Index -  Base level, Microform area KF 40 .C54.  1833-1968; full text on microfiche.

(6)  Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government PublicationsGP 3.8/8: .  For more recent (1994- ) documents, the Catalog of U.S. Government Publications on the Web links to full text documents.
(7)  Congressional Committees and Subcommittees page (from Congress Merge) and Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C. - Legislative Source Book  page  lead to hearings.
(8)  U.S. Congressional Documents Online Collection (from Rutgers University Law School) -  Contains selected hearings.
(9)  Scholar -  Search for electronically available recent hearings and/or list print copies of hearings.  Some may also be available via OhioLink.
(10)  Library of Congress.  Congressional Hearings page -  Hearings on the Census, Freedom of Information, Privacy, Immigration, and other topics have been scanned in as searchable pdfs.
(11)  C-Span Video Library -  Do a search, then limit by category (eg, House, Senate or Joint Committee hearing).  Not all inclusive.
(12) HeinOnline U.S. Congressional Documents -  Click on Congressional Hearings under Browse Options at the top of the page.  Contains the 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.
(13) Bloomberg Law Hearing Transcripts (1995-)

 


Committee Prints

  • Committee prints are research reports on proposed legislation that are provided to a committee considering a bill.  The prints provide background information, conclusions and recommendations.  They generally contain a section by section analysis.
  • Prints are usually prepared by committee staff, the Congressional Research Service, or outside consultants.
  • Prints are rarely issued, and those that are issued can be difficult to locate.

Committee Prints Are Available From:

(1)  ProQuest Congressional -  Database in Law Library (but not on wireless) , 1993-2004, Abstracts & Indexing – 1970-current.  Via Cleveland Public Library (remotely with CPL library card) has historical indexing and some older full text.
(2)  FDsys (1995-) -  FDsys Search; FDsys Browse.
(3)  LexisNexis -  Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Prints.  Selected prints 104th Congress- (1995/96- ).
(4)  Westlaw does not have a database for prints.
(5)  CIS Microfiche Library -  Base level, Microform area KF 49 .C62.  1970- ; full text on microfiche.
(6)  Congressional Committees and Subcommittees page (from Congress Merge) and Law Librarians' Society of Washington, D.C. - Legislative Source Book  page  lead to prints
(7)  Monthly Catalog of U.S. Government PublicationsGP 3.8/8: .  For more recent (1994- ) documents, Catalog of U.S. Government Publications on the Web links to full text documents.
(8)  CRS Reports on the web:

(9)  Scholar -  Search for  electronically available prints, and/or list print copies.  Some may also be available via OhioLink.

(10) Bloomberg Law - 2011 forward.  Easy to search. Senate Committee Prints and House Ways and Means Committee Prints (1995-) also available via Search Legislative


House and Senate Reports

  • If the committee votes to send the bill out of committee for consideration by the whole House or Senate, a report of the committee is written. 
  • The report typically recommends that Congress pass the bill.  The reports contains findings, background facts, the committee's legislative intent, and comparisons of current and proposed law text.  Most reports include a lengthy section-by-section analysis of the legislation.  Those disagreeing with the findings of the committee may issue a minority report. 
  • House and Senate reports are given the most weight (aside from Conference Committee reports), because they are issued by the group of legislators that knows the most about the bill, and they are usually more recent in time. 
  • House and Senate reports are cited similarly to Public Laws, with the first number being the session of Congress and the second number a unique identifier.  For example, House Report No. 108-342
  • The term "Committee Reports" includes House and Senate Reports, as well as Conference Committee Reports.

House and Senate Reports Are Available From:

(1)  U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) -  1st Floor, Reference area, Ranges 203A-204A KF 48.W45.  Selectively reprints committee reports 1942- .  Also on Westlaw
(2)  ProQuest Congressional -  Datebase in Law Library (but not on wireless), 1819-2013.   Also via Cleveland Public Library (remotely with CPL library card). 
(3) Congress.gov Congressional Reports 104th Congress- (1995/96- ) replaces Thomas -  104th Congress- (1995/96- ), which goes away at the end of 2014.
(4)  FDsys (1995- ) -  FDsys Search; FDsys Browse
(5)  LexisNexis -  Selected coverage of 101st & 102nd Congresses (1990-1992); full coverage of 103rd Congress- (1993/94- ).  Legal > Legislation & Politics-U.S.&U.K . > US Congress > Committee Reports.
(6)  Westlaw -  U.S. Federal Materials > Federal Statutes > U.S. Code Congressional & Administrative News > USCCAN Legislative History Reports (USCCAN-REP).  1948-1989 contains committee reports as reprinted in USCCAN; January 1990- contains all congressional committee reports, including reports on bills that did not become law.  WestlawNext - Legislative History - United States Code - all reports 1990-, major reports 1948-.
(7)  CIS Microfiche Library -  Base level, Microform area KF 49 .C62.  1970- ; full text on microfiche.
(8)  CIS United States Serial Set Index and Microfiche Library -  Base level, Microform area  Z1223.Z9 C65.  1789-1969.  Contains House and Senate Reports and Documents.
(9)  Bloomberg Law - Committee Reports, House and Senate Reports  (1995-)


Congressional Debates

  • The Congressional Record is a more complete version of House and Senate proceedings than videorecordings.  The live proceedings may have a truncated reading of a bill or other item, while the Congressional Record has the full text.
  • Members can grammatically revise and extend their remarks in the Congressional Record.  In issues of the Congressional Record since 1978, the revisions and extensions of the actual floor testimony are noted by black bullets at the beginning and ending of the revision (Senate testimony) or by a change in typeface (House testimony). 
  • The Daily edition comes out the following day, and is eventually cumulated, edited and rearranged into the Permanent edition.  Note:  Page numbers in the daily edition are different than the permanent edition.
  • History of Bills and Resolutions is published in a fortnightly index and cumulated into an index for that Congressional session.
  • For further explanation about the Congressional Record, see About the Congressional Record (Library of Congress).

For videos of Congressional Proceedings, matched with the Congressional Record, see C-SPAN Congressional Chronicle

U.C. Berkeley videos on how to find debates:  Debates 1989 To Present (in Thomas) and Debates 1873 To Present.

Congressional Record Is Available From:

(1)  Print -  Congressional Record, Permanent Edition (1873-1998); 2nd Floor, KF35.U57.  Each session has a topical index and a bill number index.  Permanent edition text is somewhat edited, revised and rearranged from the Daily Edition (1998- ).
(2)  ProQuest Congressional -  Database in Law Library (but not on wireless) or via Cleveland Public Library (remotely with CPL library card).  Congressional Record Daily Edition (1985- ).
(3)  Thomas -  1989- .  Also has index to the Congressional Record.  Congress.gov - 1995-.
(4)  FDsys -  FDsys Search; FDsys Browse - CR Daily (1994- ) ; FDsys Browse - CR Bound (1998-2002 ), Index 1983-.    (5)  LexisNexis

(6)  Westlaw - US Federal Materials > Legislative History > Congressional Record (CR).  1985- . WestlawNext  - Congressional Record
(7)  HeinOnline U.S. Congressional Documents - Debates of Congress -  Congressional Record (1873-2009, 1980-2013); Annals of the Congress of the United States (1789-1824); Register of Debates in Congress (1824-1837); Congressional Globe (1833-1873).

(8)  C-Span Video Library -  Do a search, then limit by House or Senate proceeding.
(9)  MetaVid - A user contributed content archive of  videos of legislative sessions back to 2006.  Videos are keyed to bills and subject categories.

(10) Bloomberg LawCongressional Record - 1933 -current
 


Conference Committee Reports

When bills from the House and Senate are passed that are not identical, a Conference Committee must take place to come up with a compromise version of the bill.  The Conference Committee sends the reconciled bill back to the House and Senate along with a report.  The report explains why the Conference came up with their product.  A Conference Committee Report goes far to explain legislative intent for two reasons.  First, it's a report about the last version of the bill, and second, it's authored by the group of legislators that dealt with it just before the President signs or vetoes it.

Conference Committee Reports Are Available From:

(1)  ProQuest Congressional -  Database in law library (but not on wireless) or via Cleveland Public Library (remotely with CPL library card).  1819-2013.
(2) Congress.gov Congressional Reports 104th Congress- (1995/96- ) replaces Thomas -  104th Congress- (1995/96- ), which goes away at the end of 2014.
(3)  FDsys (1995-) -  FDsys Search; FDsys Browse.
(4)  LexisNexis -  Legal > Legislation & Politics-U.S.&U.K . > US Congress > Committee Reports.  1990- .
(5)  Westlaw -  U.S. Federal Materials > Federal Statutes > U.S. Code Congressional & Administrative News > USCCAN Legislative History Reports (USCCAN-REP).  1948-1989 contains committee reports as reprinted in USCCAN; January 1990- contains all congressional committee reports, including reports on bills that did not become law.  WestlawNext - Legislative History - United States Code
(6)  U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) -  1st Floor, Reference area, Ranges 203A-204A KF 48.W45).  Selectively reprints committee reports 1942- .
(7)  CIS Microfiche Library -  Base level, Microform area KF 49 .C62.  1970- ; full text on microfiche.
(8)  CIS United States Serial Set Index and Microfiche Library -  Base level, Microform area  Z1223.Z9 C65.  1789-1969.  Contains Committee Reports and Documents.
(9)  The Congressional Record -  2nd Floor, Ranges 300A-301B KF 35 .U57.  Contains some conference committee reports. 
(10)  Bloomberg Law - Committee Reports, House and Senate Reports  (1995-)


Presidential Statements

A bill passed by the House and Senate is either signed or vetoed by the President.  If it's signed, it's termed "enacted" and assigned a Public Law number.   If it's vetoed, the Congress can choose to override by a two thirds majority in both chambers.  In either case, often the President issues a statement.  Sometimes the statement gives the Presidential reasons for the action and/or the President's opinion of the bill's meaning.

Presidential Statements Are Available From:

(1)  FDsys - Public Papers of the President (1991-2005) FDsys Search; FDsys Browse;  Compilation of Presidential Documents (Weekly and Daily) 1993- present, FDsys Search; FDsys BrowseWeekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (1993 – Jan. 2009).  In January 2009, the Weekly Compilation was replaced by the Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (will no longer be updated after March 2011)  Public Papers of the President (1991- March 2011).
(2)  HeinOnline U.S. Presidential LibraryIncludes Daily Compilation of Presidential Documents (1/20/09- );  Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents (1965-2009);  and Public Papers of the Presidents (selected Presidents 1931-2005).  
(3)  LexisNexis -  Legal > Federal Legal - U.S. > Executive Branch Materials > Public Papers of the President (3/24/79- ).
(4)  Westlaw -  U.S. Federal Materials > Other Administrative & Executive Materials > Daily Presidential Documents (PRES-DAILY); some signing statement1993- .  WestlawNext -
(5)  Public Papers of the President -  Law Library, Base level J80 .A283 (1929-2001).
(6)  Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents -  Law Library, Base level, Stacks & Microforms area J 80 .A284 (1965-1981).  Note:  this item is no longer available in print format.
(7) Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations -  Annual compilation of Presidential documents.  CFR available at Law Library (KF70 .A3), FDsys (1996- ), LexisNexis (1981- ), and Westlaw (1984- ).
(8) Congressional Record -  Law Library, 2nd floor, Ranges 300A-301B  KF 35 .U57.
(9) U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) -  Law Library, 1st floor, Reference area, Ranges 203A-204A  KF 48 .W45 (1942- ); also in Westlaw  (1948- ).
(10) CIS Index to Presidential Executive Orders & Proclamations -  Law Library, Base level, Microforms area KF 70 .A55 1986 (1789-1983).
(11) The American Presidency Project.  Executive Orders (1826- ).

 

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