Federal Legislative History

Bills

The main sources for legislative history research are Thomas and Lexis Nexis Congressional. Another source to check out are the Congress/Legislative Branch resources guide maintained by the Doe/Moffitt Library.

For historical research the U.S. Congressional Serial Set is a collection of primary source materials covering the period 1817-1980 (the 15th through 96th Congresses) with the database currently complete through the the 75th Congress (1937).

HeinOnline has a U.S Federal Legislative History Library that contains Sources of Compiled Legislative History Database and U.S. Federal Legislative History Title Collection. The U.S. Department of Justice has also compiled several histories.


There are also a number of specialized news sources that cover Congressional activity. Among the most useful of these is CQ Weekly which is also available on Westlaw.

Subject Indexes Full Text Status/Tracking
CCH Congressional Index: 1938-to date. 2 volume looseleaf service, House and Senate. Check Subject Index, Current Subject Index, and Latest Additions. Thomas: Multiple access points to full text of US Bills, 101st Cong.,1989- Thomas: Bill Summary ; Status, 93rd Cong., 1973- Includes a detailed legislative status list, cites to floor and executive actions and links to Congressional Record pages where debate and voting are recorded.
Digest of General Bills; Resolutions: Available in all US Government Depository Libraries. Annual cumulative index. LexisNexis Congressional: Multiple access points to full text of U.S. Bills 101st Cong., 1989- LexisNexis Congressional: Bill Track, 101st Congress (1989/90)-
History Tables in Congressional Record: Not so easy to use, but sometimes necessary, especially for pre-1938 bills. GPO Access: U.S. Government Printing Office 103rd Cong., 1993- Lexis: Bill Track for current Congress and Bill Track-Historical, 101st Congress- (Go to: Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress )
LexisNexis Congressional Historical Indexes 1789 - 1972 Also available via Lexis (Go to: Legal > Federal Legal - U.S. > Legislative Histories & Materials > CIS/Historical Index ) USGPO Microfiche: Full text, 98th Congress - Microfilm, 1st-97th Congress (Boalt does not have all) Westlaw: Bill Track for current Congress and Bill Track Archive, 101st Congress- (Go to: U.S. Federal Materials > Bill Tracking )
  Lexis:Current bills and Bills-Historical: 101st Congress- (Go to: Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress ) Westlaw: Current bills and bill Archive: 104th Congress- (Go to: Federal Materials: Legislative History and Bill Tracking) CCH Congressional Index: Status of House and Senate Bills: Not as detailed as the online services, but goes back to 1938. Looseleaf services, updated often while Congress is in session.

Committee Reports

Subject Indexes Full Text
Congressional Information Service (CIS): Index & Abstracts: Boalt has 1970- Subject index and abstracting service for Hearings, Committee Reports and prints, as well as veto messages and other executive actions. Boalt also has an internal numbering system, to CIS microfiche. United States Congressional Serial Set: A USGPO Publication, under various names, since 1817. Main Library has complete set. Boalt has 1928 - Current, unbound Committee Reports are available. Ask at Reference.

United States Congressional Serial Set (1817 - 1954 and being gradually updated)
This electronic version is presently complete through the second session of the 83rd Congress.. It’s made up of congressional reports and documents, arranged in sequentially numbered volumes. Many important executive agency documents were printed in congressional editions during the 19th century, making the U.S. Congressional Serial Set an incredibly rich resource covering nearly every aspect of society
LexisNexis Congressional: Historical Indexes: 1789-1969: Also available via Lexis (Go to:Legal > Federal Legal - U.S. > Legislative Histories & Materials > CIS/Historical Index ) CIS Microfiche: Boalt has 1970- Main Library has complete collection. Facsimiles of the official government documents. Access through CIS Index ; Abstracts, or Lexis's Legislative History file.
LexisNexis Congressional: The CIS index is searchable by keyword or subject from 1970- (see CIS Index ; Abstracts above). LexisNexis Congressional: Contains the full text of committee reports and prints back to 101st Cong., 1989. Also has a subject and keyword searchable index back to 1970.
CCH Congressional Index: 1938- to date. Does not directly index reports, but can find committees and the dates that reports were issued by using the Status of bills section. Thomas: Full text of Committee Reports 104th Cong.-
USGPO Monthly Catalog of Government Documents: Under various names this catalog has existed since the 19th century. good source for historical indexing of all government publications. Lexis: Full text of all current committee reports and committee prints, 101st Cong., 1990- (Go to:
Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Reports)
  Westlaw: LH database has full text of all committee reports from 101st Cong., 1990-, plus selected committee reports from USCCAN back to 1948. (USCCAN in hard copy also) (Go to: U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History - U.S. Code (LH))

Hearings/Testimony

Indexes Full Text
CIS Index ; Abstracts: This is the primary index for hearings. Boalt has 1970-. Indexing is by subject, witness name. CIS has an internal numbering system that refers you to their microfiche, where you will find fascimiles of the official hearing documents. CIS Microfiche: Use CIS Index ; Abstracts or LexisNexis Congressional to find hearings by subject or witness name. Use CIS internal numbering system to locate microfiche facsimile copies of USGPO transcipts of full testimony. Boalt has 1970-

LexisNexis Congressional: Full text congressional hearings from 1824- present(note: LexisNexis is currently digitizing these hearings so some may not be available)

Contains the full text of selected prepared testimony and the full text of a limited number of transcripts of full testimony from the Federal Document Clearing House ; Federal News Service. Coverage varies.

LexisNexis Congressional: Historical Indexes: 1789-1969: Also available via Lexis (Go to: Legal > Federal Legal - U.S. > Legislative Histories & Materials > CIS/Historical Index) US Government Depository Libraries have hard copies of USGPO transcipts of full testimony. Boalt has 1970-
LexisNexis Congressional: Same as CIS Index and Abstracts, but on the web. Index goes back to 1970. Searchable by subject, witness and keywords. A version of this index is available on Lexis but coverage is less current and the interface may be more difficult to use. (Go to: Legislation & Politics : U.S. Congress : Legislative Histories : US - Congressional Information Service Legislative Histories) Lexis:
  • Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Testimony. Contains the full text of selected prepared testimony. July 1993- (Go to:
    Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Hearing Transcripts > Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Hearings Summaries)
  • Federal News Service Transcripts. Updated every 48 hours. Aug. 1988- (Go to:
    Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Hearing Transcripts > Federal News Service)
  • National Narrowcast Transcripts (archival) .Contains the full text of selected prepared testimony and the full text of a limited number of transcripts of full testimony. Oct. 1993- July 28, 2000. (Go to:Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Hearing Transcripts > National Narrowcast Network Transcripts )
  • CQ Transcriptions
    Contains transcripts of 4 to 5 complete congressional hearings per day as well as press briefings from the State, Justice, and Defense departments, presidential news conferences and press briefings, and speeches and press conferences by national newsmakers. Jan. 1995- (Go to:
    Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress > Committee Hearing Transcripts > CQ Transcriptions)
USGPO Monthly Catalog of Government Documents: Under various titles, has been around since the 19th century. Subject access to many government publications, including hearings. Westlaw: US Congressional Testimony database (USTESTIMONY) contains transcripts of oral and written statements submitted to committees. Source is the Federal Document Clearing House. Updated daily. Coverage varies beginning 1993.
(Go to: U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History > U.S. Congressional Testimony)

Congressional Testimony (CONGTMY) database contains the full text of selected prepared testimony and the full text of a limited number of transcripts of full testimony from Dow Jones. July 1995-
(Go to: U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History > Congressional Testimony)

USPOLTRANS - Transcripts of news conferences, press briefings, political speeches, and oral testimony from congressional committee hearings. Coverage begins with February 1994.
(Go to: U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History > US Political Transcripts)

 

Thomas: Some full transcripts of hearings are showing up on Thomas. Coverage varies from committee to committee. GPO Access: U.S. Government Printing Office: A limited number of House and Senate hearings, with official pagination, from 1998-

Congressional Debate

Indexes Full Text
Congressional Record: Hard copy indexing becomes spotty in recent years, but good before the mid 1980s. Congressional Record: USGPO (paper) Until the mid 1980s this was the place to go. CR came out in Daily editions that were numbered according to whether it was Senate and House debate. These pages were later recompiled into the permanent edition and pagination was changed to be continuous. USGPO ceased regularly to provide bound editions in the 80s. Pagination chaos has reigned ever since. Check Boalt's records to see if we have the Permanent Edition for the year you are interested in. Bluebook lovers prefer citations to the permanent editions. This is becoming increasingly problematic.
CCH Congressional Index: Not an index to the Congressional Record itself, but gives you dates of debate on particular bills in Bill Status section so you can find information in the Congressional Record itself by using the daily index. Bill Tracking and Status in Thomas, LexisNexis Congressional, Lexis and Westlaw all can work the same as CCH. If you have the date of debate or passage, you can go to the Congressional Record and find the text. In the online databases you can go directly to the text, and if you are using a web based service, or a web interface for Lexis or Westlaw, you can link directly to the Congressional Record. Congressional Record:
  • Lexis: 1985- (Go to: Legal > Legislation & Politics - U.S. & U.K. > U.S. Congress )
  • Westlaw: 1985- (Go to: U.S. Federal Materials > Legislative History > Congressional Record)
  • Thomas: 1989-
  • LexisNexis Congressional: 103rd Congress-105th (with retroactive to 1873 in progress.)
  • GPO Access: 1994-

Other Documents

Committee Prints

House and Senate Documents

Presidential Documents

Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents: This is available in hard copy at Boalt, and Westlaw (Federal Materials Other Administrative & Executive Material)

  • GPO Access: 1993-
  • HeinOnline has the Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents from 1965 -
  • There are also Presidential Documents at the White House web page.
  • USCCAN: Provides the full text of Presidential signing documents, Executive Orders, and Presidential Proclamations.(On Westlaw go to: U.S. Federal Materials > U.S. Code Congressional & Administrative News)
  • Code of Federal Regulations: contains the full text of Executive Orders and Presidential Proclamations.
  • Congressional Record: Some Presidential Documents are available in the Congressional Record.

Prepared by Michael Levy, Associate Director, UC Berkeley Law Library. Prepared October 2008.

Last edited by Dean C. Rowan, 15 September 2011