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Federal Legislative History

Research guide about resources and strategies for researching federal legislative history.

Compiled Legislative Histories

Before beginning the time-consuming process of compiling a legislative history from scratch, the careful researcher will see if someone else has already produced one.

Indexes for Identifying Compiled Legislative Histories

CIS Index (KF49 .C62). This multi-volume set (1970-2007) indexes legislative history documents, including House and Senate reports, hearings and committee prints.

History of Bills in the Congressional Record Index (1983- ) The History of Bills lists legislative actions on bills that are reported in the Congressional Record, which has been published since 1874. In print, it is part of the Congressional Record Index, the biweekly publication from the Joint Committee on Printing, but on govinfo it is a separate collection. HeinOnline History of Bills in the Congressional Record Index (1873-)

ProQuest Congressional provides detailed indexing of all materials related to legislation from the 91st Congress (1969) to present. This service is available from all campus computers and off-site with Onyen and password verification.

Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories, compiled by Nancy P. Johnson (Reference Desk KF42.2 1979). A good first stop when searching for legislative history, this title provides citations to compiled legislative histories for the 1st through the 108th Congresses (1789-2007). After identifying a compiled legislative history from Johnson, check the online catalog to see if the Law Library has the title.

Union List of Legislative Histories (KF4 .U55 6th). This title indicates which libraries in the Washington, DC area contain compiled legislative histories; information is included about whether materials can be borrowed on interlibrary loan or must be used in-house. 

To Locate a Legislative History Compilation Online

ProQuest Legislative Insight contains compiled legislative histories for over 18,000 laws passed between 1929-2017 (with an additional 9,000 histories for laws from 1789-1965). Includes PDFs of public laws, bills, House and Senate reports, hearings, committee prints, presidential signing statements, Congressional Record entries and other legislative history documents. Available from all campus computers and off-site with Onyen and password verification.

Westlaw' contains several resources for compiled legislative histories (authorized users only).

  •   U.S. GAO Federal Legislative Histories database includes legislative histories for most public laws enacted between 1921 and 1995  
  • Westlaw users can also access Arnold & Porter Legislative Histories, a collection of over two dozen compiled legislative histories for major federal legislation.
  • U.S. Code Congressional & Administrative News includes Legislative History Reports adn Legislative Table History.

LexisNexis contains many compiled legislative histories, including legislation relating to taxation, bankruptcy and the environment (authorized users only).

HeinOnline's U.S. Federal Legislative History Library contains legislative histories published by the United States Government Printing Office and private publishers, as well as a finding aid based on Nancy Johnson's Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories. Available from all campus computers and off-site with Onyen and password verification.

The United States Department of Justice Legislative Histories includes some, or all, of the following for selected public laws: the Public Law; House and Senate Documents; House, Senate, and Conference Reports; House and Senate Committee Hearings; Congressional Debates (Congressional Record); related Bills; and Presidential Signing Statements.