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Federal Legislative History Research

Compiling a Federal Legislative History

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Type of US Congressional documents (and where to find them)

Committee Reports:  House (H. Rpt.) and Senate (S. Rpt.) Committees issue these reports, outlining their deliberations and recommendations for a particular bill.

Floor Debates: in the Congressional Record (Cong. Rec.; C.R.) report all activities that occur on the floor of either house.  Debates are published .

Committee Hearings:  record of a hearing on a bill held by a committee or subcommittee.  The record may include witnesses’ testimonies and materials submitted by interested parties or added by committee members.  Not all hearings are published.

Bills:  text of the bill itself.  Bills can be introduced in either the House of Representatives (H.R.) or the Senate (S.). 

Content Available within HeinOnline

This video explains the congressional content available to you within HeinOnline. (3:13)

Committee reports

Committee reports are generally considered to be the most valuable source of legislative history information - both in terms of determining Congressional intent and in learning more about the subject matter of the legislation. Committee reports typically contain a section by section analysis of the proposed bill and an explanation of why the committee recommended passage of the bill. A report may also set forth the reasons why a minority of the committee voted against the bill.

Reports are first issued in a pamphlet format and then included in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, which is the official bound compilation of Congressional documents.

Floor debates

Committee hearings


See the below video to learn how to search HeinOnline for a bill and any related documents within the Congressional Record.

Abbreviations for congressional documents

H. Doc.  (House document)

H.R.    (House bill)

Cong. Rec. (Floor debate)

H. Rpt. (Committee Reports)

S.   (Senate bill)

S. Doc. (Senate document)

S. Rpt. (Committee Reports)

Stat.  (Statutes at Large)

[Committee Hearings]

[Committee Prints]

[Presidential Documents]