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Federal Legislative History

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

House and Senate Committee Reports

The House and Senate committee reports are generally considered the most authoritative documents of legislative history. When a piece of legislation is "reported out of committee," i.e. sent to the floor of one chamber for consideration, this printed report accompanies the bill, indicating the rationale behind the legislation, its scope and purpose, the way in which it would be funded, a statement of why it should be enacted, how it will affect current law, and a section by section analysis of the content of the bill. When a conference committee is formed to resolve differences between bills passed in each chamber, its report may indicate why certain sections were finally incorporated or omitted.

To Locate Committee Reports Online

ProQuest Congressional provides searching and full text of committee reports from the 101st Congress (1990). The database is available on campus computers or off-site with Onyen and password verification.

Congress.gov contains committee reports from the 104th Congress (1995) forward and are easy to search.

GovInfo also provides the full text of committee reports from the 104th Congress (1995) to present.

Westlaw's coverage of committee reports begins with 1948 in the Legislative History database. From January 1990 forward, the database contains all congressional committee reports, including reports on bills that did not become law. This database also includes legislative history of securities laws beginning in 1933 (authorized users only).

LexisNexis' Committee Reports database contains House and Senate reports from January 1990 to present with selected coverage of the 101st (1989) and 102nd (1991) Congresses (authorized users only).

To Locate Committee Reports in Print

Superintendent of Documents (SuDoc) Classification Number - Federal government publications are arranged by a classification scheme called SuDoc, which was designed to group all publications created by the same author together (eg. government agency). House and Senate reports are grouped under the letter Y. The SuDoc number for House reports begins with Y 1.1/8: The SuDoc number for Senate reports begins with Y 1.1/5:

If the Senate or House report number is known, e.g. H.Rpt. 107-1, that number will serve as a guide to locating the full text in the microfiche collection on the 1st floor. Simply add that number to end of the appropriate SuDoc range in order to identify the proper microfiche. For example H. Rpt 107-1's SuDoc number becomes Y 1.1/8:107-1. (When searching for a report in the catalog, be aware that there is a space between the Y and 1.)

Microfiche - The Law Library has scattered microfiche holdings of committee reports before 1985 and a full collection after 1985. Davis Library has a full collection of published reports. The committee reports may be located in the Law Library 1st floor cabinets by using the SuDoc number identified in the CIS Index or obtained through a search of the online catalog.

Search the online catalog using a keyword search including words from the committee name and/or bill title, such as, "report and senate and committee on health and mental health." Use the SuDoc number to locate the microfiche on the 1st floor of the Law Library or in the Davis Library.