Finding legislative history can be a challenge. Finding a bill number is essential to legislative history research. Your first step is usually to find the U.S. Code citation, public law number, or United States Statutes at Large citation of the pertinent law. Bill numbers for more recent laws can found online.
Congressional committee reports discuss the background and purpose behind bills they consider. Committee reports and conference reports are considered to be the most valuable parts of a legislative history. Congressional reports are included in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, which contains all House and Senate Reports and Documents beginning with the 15th Congress in 1817.
Conference reports are almost always printed as House reports and are numbered in sequence with other House reports. Conference reports contain the final text of a bill as reconciled by members of the House and Senate. Conference reports usually contain a joint explanatory statement or explanation of the committees process in reaching agreed language.
Selected committee reports are printed in full text in the Legislative Histories section of the U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) (in print and also on WestlawNext) beginning in 1944.
Citations to committee reports are found in the CIS Annual (1970-). Congressional reports can be found in full text from 1789 to the present in the microfiche collections of the Law Library.
Finding Committee Reports Online:
1. FDsys publishes all congressional reports in full text beginning with the 104th Congress (1995-).
After each day that Congress is in session, the proceedings are printed in the Congressional Record (CR) and available the following morning.
Daily Congressional proceedings may include legislative activity by the chambers and their committees, Member remarks, communications from the president, and more (described below in Congressional Record Sections). Note that official records of House and Senate actions are recorded in their respective journals.
Congress.gov provides numerous ways to access the CR. Among them are:
Congress.gov provides full-text access to daily CR issues dating from 1995 (beginning with the 104th Congress). New issues become available on Congress.gov shortly after they are published on GPO's FDsysusually before 10:00 am. Late availability, often due to a late night Congressional session, is announced on the Most Recent Issue page. Issues are not usually printed for days that neither the Senate nor House met.
Senate, House, joint, or special committee congressional hearings are usually open to the public; their purpose is to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. Hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, as members of Congress gather information in preparation for future legislation. Transcripts of hearings include texts of prepared statements submitted during the hearing, prepared remarks by committee members, exhibits, and live testimony.
FDsys (1985-) links to full transcipts of hearings; you can also search for hearings by title or keywords in the online Catalog of U.S. Government Publications. Many of the records in the Catalog contain permanent links (PURLs) to online hearing transcripts.
The House of Representatives and Senate websites contain links to congressional committee pages, which contain hearing information. Some committees only post hearing schedules, while others provide links to transcripts of recent and archived hearings and live webcasts.
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