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Federal Legislative History

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

Public Laws

Enacted public laws are first published separately as slip laws. Public laws are then published chronologically in the United States Statutes at Large, the first official publication of enacted laws. Public Laws are then integrated into the United States Code. Because the subject arrangement of the Code may require the public law to be split to fit into its arrangement, some nuances of legislative language and some introductory material may be lost in the process. For this reason, the public law should be consulted in the search for legislative intent.

To Locate Public Laws Online

Public laws are available on Congress.gov from the 93rd Congress (1973) to present and on GovInfo from the 104th Congress (1995) to present.

ProQuest Congressional provides public laws from the 100th Congress, 2nd session (1988) to present and is available from campus computers or off-site with Onyen and password verification. 

Westlaw contains public laws from 1973 forward (authorized users only).

LexisNexis provides access to public laws from the 100th Congress, 2nd session (1988) to present (authorized users only). 

To Locate Public Laws in Print

Public laws are printed in the Statutes at Large (KF50 .U58).