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RPOS495Z: Research & Writing in Washington

This guide contains information and resources for compiling legislative histories as well as other useful sources for researching US federal law and policy

Documents in a Legislative History

A legislative history is made up of the following documents

These documents are useful in determining legislative intent, or the purpose or goal that lawmakers had in mind at the time of enactment.

Text of the Bill
  • The text of the bill, including prior and related versions across one or more sessions of Congress
  • Enacted laws are published chronologically by Congress in the Statutes at Large
  • Legislation in progress, including prior versions that stalled, are published in the Congressional Record
    • You can view bills in progress at (this will include committee referrals, votes, and other actions taken on the bill)
Committee Hearings
  • When a committee is reviewing a bill, they will ask for statements and testimonies from experts and other interested parties
    • This is useful for learning who was for or against a bill and why
  • Committee hearings are published in the Congressional Record
    • Committee documentation is also available at
Floor Debates
  • Floor debates happen between members of Congress (in the House or Senate, respectively)
  • These are published in the Congressional Record
Committee Reports
  • A committee report contains a committee's full, detailed analysis of a bill
  • These are published in Congressional Reports

Sources for Legislative History Documents

You can find legislative history documents in the following government publications. These are available at the links below.

Congressional Record
  • The official record of proceedings and debates of the U.S. Congress
  • Published daily while Congress is session
  • Bills, hearings, debates, and reports
Congressional Reports
  • House and Senate Reports
Statutes at Large
  • Permanent collection of all laws and resolutions passed during a session of Congress
  • Chronological record
  • Enacted bills
Subscription Databases available through UAlbany Libraries
Library Search
Government Resources Online