Legislative history documents (e.g., bills, committee reports and hearings, floor debates) are often cited in law journal articles. This section outlines some of the major federal legislative history resources available to you in print, online, and on microfiche.
Congressional Committee Reports
Congressional committee report citations can typically be recognized as such by the H.R. Rep. (House Report) and S. Rep. (Senate Report) abbreviations that precede the report numbers. (If the number is preceded by just H.R. or S., this signifies that it is a House of Representatives or Senate bill as opposed to a report.)
United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (U.S.C.C.A.N.) is a publication containing not only all of the public laws enacted by Congress since 1948, but also selected Congressional committee reports related to those public laws. Bluebook Rule 13.4(a) states that when possible, you should include a parallel citation to U.S.C.C.A.N. when citing to Congressional committee reports. U.S.C.C.A.N. is located in the Law Library’s Federal Section and is organized chronologically. The public laws for each Congressional session are contained in volumes labeled “Laws” on the spine, and the committee reports are contained in accompanying volumes labeled “Legislative History” on the spine.
A more complete set for Congressional committee reports is the United States Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994 which is available electronically (see below).
Congressional Floor Debates
The Congressional Record (Cong. Rec.) is the standard source for Congressional floor debates since 1873. The USC Law Library no longer holds this title in print (except for the index volumes), due to its availability electronically (see below).
Congressional debates prior to 1873 can be found in print in publications such as the Congressional Globe and the Register of Debates in Congress. These publications are available on the Law Library’s third floor.
Many libraries catalog individual Congressional hearings that are held in their print collections. USC’s main library catalog HOMER and, to a lesser degree, the Law Library’s catalog ADVOCAT provide records for a substantial number of committee hearings. Therefore, you can search for a hearing by name in one or both of these catalogs to see if it is available in print on the USC campus. Many of the USC Libraries’ hearings are stored off-site but can be paged through the HOMER catalog. For some hearings, HOMER will provide links to the PDF versions available on the federal government's FDsys website (see below).
Listed on the next few pages are descriptions of five electronic resources that contain the full text of one or more of the types of legislative history documents discussed above. Each of these resources is limited in the type of information provided and/or the time periods covered. The comparison chart in the next section can help you quickly determine which resource(s) you will want to use given the type of document you are looking for and the year in which it was published.
The Congress.gov website is the official website for U.S. federal legislative information. The site provides the full text of public laws, legislative bills, legislative debates, and committee reports.
When you first go to the Congress.gov site, you can choose the type of document you wish to search (legislation, debates in the Congressional Record, committee reports, etc.) by using the drop-down menu in the box on the left-hand side of the screen.
If you have the citation to a specific bill or report, you can enter that citation in the main search box. To search for a specific page in the Congressional Record, you can choose the "Congressional Record" link near the top of the screen and then browse by date. For help with searching this website, click on the "Help" link located over the main search box.
FDsys, noted above for its federal primary law material, also provides access to the various types of legislative history documents discussed above (bills, reports, debates in the Congressional Record, and hearings). As indicated on the chart below, FDsys does not go back as far as Congerss.gov for bills and debates. All of the documents however are available in PDF.
HeinOnline includes a U.S. Congressional Documents collection. Within this collection you can select Congressional Record to search for debates or Congressional Hearings to search for hearings If you have a Congressional Record citation, click "Citation" and then on the “Citation Navigator” tab at the top of the screen, choose “Cong. Rec.” from the Abbreviation pull down menu on the left-hand side of the screen, and enter your volume and page numbers in the Vol. and Page boxes.
This online version of the United States Congressional Serial Set (referenced above) can be accessed from the USC Libraries’ “Databases” page. This online version contains Congressional committee reports in PDF. You can search for reports by keyword, bill number, and/or publication number.
ProQuest Congressional, also accessible from the USC Libraries' "Databases" page, is particularly useful for older federal legislative history documents and includes PDF images of bills, reports, debates, and hearings.
The chart below is designed to help direct you to the most appropriate electronic resource(s) given the type of document you are looking for and the year in which your document was published. In addition to providing these resources’ years of coverage for the different types of legislative history documents (coverage dates subject to change), the chart indicates if the resources provide access to PDF images for each type of document.
|Congress.gov||FDsys||HeinOnline||U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994||ProQuest Congressional**|
|Bills||1993 (103rd Congress) - present (PDF)||1993 (103rd Congress) - present (PDF)||1789 (1st Congress) - present (PDF)|
|Reports||1995 (104th Congress) - present (PDF)||1995 (104th Congress) - present (PDF)||1817 (15th Congress) - 1994 (103rd Congress) (PDF)||1789 (1st Congress) - present (PDF)|
|Debates||1995 (104th Congress) - present (PDF)*||1994 (103rd Congress, 2nd Session) - present (PDF from 1995)||1789 (1st Congress) - present (PDF)||1789 (1st Congress) - present; (PDF)|
|Hearings||1985 (99th Congress) - present (selective coverage) (PDF)||1929 (71st Congress) - present (selective coverage)* (PDF)||1824 (18th Congress, 2nd Session) - present (PDF)|
*HeinOnline also contains a handful of earlier hearings published between 1889 and 1926.
**ProQuest Legislative Insight has compiled legislative histories (with associated documents in PDF) up to the present for enacted legislation, i.e., public laws. These can be found in the Legislative Insight database and can be searched for in various ways, including by Public Law number.
The USC Law Library has a microfiche collection of U.S. Congressional documents which includes committee reports and hearings going back to 1970 as well as bills going back to 1975. This collection is located in the library’s Photocopy/Microform Room (Room 218) on the main floor.
Most of these documents are now available online in PDF, but if for some reason you need to use the microfiche, come to the Law Library Reference Office or Service Counter and someone can assist you in retrieving the correct microfiche and using the microfiche reader to read, print, and/or scan the document.