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Government Documents: Legislative History

I'm Just a Bill

CONGRESSIONAL DOCUMENTS

Legislative History

Each United States Congress introduces legislation in the form of bills and resolutions. These bills are referred to and considered in the various House and Senate committees. Hearings may be held and reports may be issued. If a House and Senate committee-passed bill has different language, the bills then go to a conference committee to reconcile the differences. If the bill passes both the House and Senate with the same language, and the President signs it, it becomes law. Most introduced bills never become law and the bills may be re-introduced in the next Congress.

Researchers often use the legislative history of a law to determine the intent of Congress when drafting the law if the meaning isn't clear within the law's text.

See the following sources for a more detailed explanation of the legislative process:

Guides to Legislative Histories

Federal

State Laws and Codes

Related Resources

Legislative History at Wellesley

The following sources may be used to locate Congressional documents in the Wellesley College Library or online. Note the coverage dates very carefully.

 
Print/Microfiche

Online
Note: Proquest Congressional = Wellesley community only

House Bills (H.R.) (proposed legislation)

Digest of Public General Bills 76th Cong. - 101st Cong. (1939-1990). Clapp Docs J 52 A3
 

American Memory 6th Cong. - 42nd Congress (1799-1873)

GPO 103rd Cong.(1993-94) to present
Thomas 101st Congress (1989-90) to present
ProQuest Congressional 1989 to present

Senate Bills (S.) (proposed legislation)

Digest of Public General Bills 76th Cong. - 101st Cong. (1939-1990). Clapp Docs J 52 A3


 

American Memory 16th Cong. - 42nd Congress (1819-1873)
GPO 103rd Cong.(1993-94) to present
Thomas 101st Congress (1989) to present
ProQuest Congressional 1989 to present

Committee Hearings (witness testimony and prepared statements, submitted reports) Look in the Wellesley Library catalog for recent titles. Hearings 1945 -1980 are in fiche, selected may be in paper; most hearings 1980+  in print.  Note: microfiche hearings from 1945-1980 should be located with the CIS number. Ask at the Clapp Reference Desk.

GPO 104th Cong. (1995-96) to present (selected)
ProQuest Congressional - transcripts/testimony 1988 to present
Law Library of Congress - selected committees
Rutgers School of Law - selected 1970's to 1998
U of New Orleans - selected prior to 1990.

Committee Reports (purpose/scope of bill, reasons for approval) American State Papers (1789 - 1838) Check the Library Catalog.
U.S. Cong. Serial Set 77th Cong. - 95th Cong. (1941-1978) Clapp SuDocs Y 1. Ask at the Reference Desk.
U.S. Code Cong. and Admin. News 92nd Cong. - 101st Cong. (1972-1990). Clapp Docs KF 63 A2
House and Senate Reports (microfiche) SuDoc Y1.1 96th Cong. (1979) - 103rd Cong. (1994). Ask at the Reference Desk.

American State Papers 1789-1838
U.S. Cong. Serial Set 23rd Cong. - 64th Congress (1817-1833)
U.S. Congressional Serial Set (1817-1980)  requires free Boston Public Library e-card to access

GPO 104th Cong. (1995-96) to present
Thomas 104th Congress (1995-96) to present
ProQuest Congressional 1990 to present

Conference Reports   GPO 109th Cong. (2005-06) to present
Congressional Documents

American State Papers (1789-1838) Check the Library Catalog.
U.S. Cong. Serial Set 77th Cong. - 95th Cong. (1941-1978) Clapp SuDocs Y 1. Ask at the Reference Desk.

House and Senate Documents (microfiche) SuDocs Y 1. 96th Cong. (1979) to 103rd Cong. (1994). Ask at the Reference Desk.

American State Papers (1789-1838)
U.S. Cong. Serial Set 23rd Cong. - 64th Congress (1833- 1917)
U.S. Congressional Serial Set (1817-1980)  requires free Boston Public Library e-card to access

GPO 104th Cong. (1995-96) to present
ProQuest Congressional 1995 to present

Congressional Record and predecessors (debate/remarks on the floor of Congress) 1st - 98th (1789-1984) Clapp Docs J 11 R5
99th (v.131,1985) to (v. 154 (2008) in microfiche, Clapp SuDocs X and X 1.1: Ask at the Reference Desk.

Annals of Congress 1789-1824
Register of Debates 1824-1837
Congressional Globe 1833-1873

GPO  vol 140 (1994) to present
Thomas 101st Cong. (1989-90) to present
ProQuest Congressional 1985 to present

Floor Votes Taken Congressional Record (see options above) Thomas 101st Congress (1989-90) to present
U.S. Congress Votes Database from the Washington Post, 1991 to present
ProQuest Congressional 1988 to present
Look in the Congressional Record (see options above)
Public laws (P.L.) Statutes at Large (vol. 1, 1789) to present. Clapp Docs KF 50 U5

American Memory 1789-1875
GPO 104th Cong. (1995-96) to present
Thomas 101st Congress (1989-90) to present
ProQuest Congressional 1988 to present

Presidential Signing Statements Messages and Papers of the Presidents (Washington-Wilson) Clapp Docs J 81 B96
Public Papers of the Presidents (Hoover to present) Clapp Docs J 80 A283
American Presidency Project Hoover - G.W. Bush (UCSB)
Compilation of Presidential Documents. 1992 to present

Once the public law has been passed, it is "codified"; that is, various topic sections are taken out of the public law and put into the United States Code in a subject arrangement. The Code will have the public laws in their most current form; that is, the original law, with all its amendments, that is currently in effect.

Executive Branch agencies such as the EPA and the Dept. of Education then make regulations based on the current law and publish these regulation in the Code of Federal Regulations. Proposed and final changes to agency regulations are published in the Federal Register. The public may comment on proposed changes before they are made final. In order to get the very latest regulations, you must consult the latest Code of Federal Regulations and the Federal Register issues published subsequent to the Code.

 
Print
Online
Note: L/N Academic and Westlaw Campus = Wellesley community only
United States Code United States Code Service Clapp Docs KF 62 1972 .L38 GPO  1994 to present
L/N Academic latest only
Westlaw Campus latest only. Search Contents List, click on title
Code of Federal Regulations

Title 3 (The President) only. In microfiche, Clapp first floor, AE 2.106/3:3/. 1991 - 2000.

In print, Docs KF 70 .A3, 1936 - 1976.

GPO 1996 to present
L/N Academic current and archive 1981+
Westlaw Campus latest only. Search Contents List, click on title
Federal Register   federalregister.gov 1994 to present
GPOAccess 1994 to present
L/N Academic 7/1/1980 to present
Westlaw Campus 1981 to present. Search Contents List, click on title
Find a Public Law by its Popular Name Shepard's acts and cases by popular names. Clapp Docs KF 90 .S538 Popular Names of Acts in the U.S. Code - Cornell
Comment on Proposed Legislation   Regulations.gov