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Federal Legislative History

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

Floor or Chamber Debates

Once a bill has been sent to the floor of either chamber, it may be debated by the members. The permanent edition of the Congressional Record contains the debates, including "extended remarks," not presented on the floor, but added afterward. These extended remarks usually appear in italics and may be of lesser value to the legislative history researcher. The value of floor debates varies, depending on the activity, but the debates are generally not considered as important as committee reports.

The Congressional Record comes in a permanent and daily edition. The Bluebook requires that the permanent edition be cited when available. HeinOnline provides a Congressional Record Daily to Bound, which researchers can use to convert citations from the daily edition to the corresponding pages in the permanent bound volume.

To Locate Debates Online

From 1994 forward, the full text of the Congressional Record is searchable on GovInfo. currently includes the Congressional Record from the 101st Congress (1989) to present.

LexisNexis and Westlaw contain the Congressional Record from the 99th Congress (1985) forward (authorized users only).

To Locate Debates in Print

Congressional Record: Proceedings and Debates of the Congress. Both the permanent and daily editions of the Congressional Records are available at the Law Library. The daily edition (KF35 .U584) can be accessed in microfiche on the 3rd floor or in print on the 4th floor. Bound volumes of the permanent edition for most years are located on the 1st floor of the library near superseded materials. Microfiche copies of the permanent edition are on the 3rd floor at KF35 .U583. Davis Library also contains these materials.