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Federal Legislative History

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


In some cases, hearings on the need for the proposed legislation are held before the bills are introduced in Congress. Although these hearings are not considered of primary importance in determining legislative intent, they often contain testimony by experts in the field, and the questions asked may indicate particular concerns of legislators or may show that legislators considered some issues that are or are not reflected in the final legislation. Hearings are not held for all legislation and not all hearings are published.

To Locate Hearings Online

Some committee hearings are recorded and placed on the individual committee's website.

Links to House Committee websites are available through the U.S. House of Representatives website. Similarly, links to Senate Committee websites can be found through the U.S. Senate website.

The U.S. Government Printing Office posts committee hearings beginning with the 104th Congress (1995) on its website, GovInfo.

ProQuest Congressional is available on campus computers and off-site with Onyen and password verification. It provides hearings from 1824 forward under "Congressional Publications, Advanced Search."

LexisNexis' CQ Transcriptions database contains transcripts of complete congressional hearings, including witness statements and Q&A between witnesses and congressional committee members. Coverage begins with January 1995 (authorized users only).

Westlaw's US Congressional Testimony database contains witness lists for congressional hearings and transcripts of oral and written statements submitted to committees of Congress. Select coverage begins with January 1993 (authorized users only).

To Locate Hearings in Print

The Law Library has scattered holdings in paper for published hearings prior to 1985, particularly from the Judiciary Committee. In 1985, the Law Library began collecting all published hearings in microfiche. To find a particular published hearing in the Law Library microfiche collection, search the online catalog using a keyword search. For example, search "hearing and senate and international trade and 1986." Or, perform a keyword search using the hearing number, "S. hrg. 100-402."

Davis Library has all published hearings in paper or in microform in its Government Documents collection. Those from 1976 forward can be found through the library's online catalog. The Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications (Z1223 .A18) indexes published hearings pre-1976.

Unpublished hearings are sometimes printed and sold by commercial publishers, and both the Law Library and Davis Library have some holdings of these unpublished hearings in microform only. In the Law Library, unpublished hearings can be found in the microfiche collection on the 3rd floor at KF40 .C54 1988. Particular unpublished hearings can be identified through indexes to unpublished house and senate hearings located on the 3rd floor.