J.W. Long Law Library


Federal Legislative History

How do you find those elusive United States Senate and House documents, reports, hearings and committee prints that were created during the legislative process culminating in a bill enacted as a Public Law (P.L.), published as a session law in the United States Statutes at Large (Stat) and then codified by subject into the United States Code (USC, USCA, USCS)?

1. Whether your approach is to access print, microform or online sources, or a combination thereof, your search will be facilitated by first determining the year and P.L. number of the law in which you are interested.  The first two digits of the P.L. number identifies the Congress.  For example, P.L. 85-24 refers to the 85th Congress.  If you have only the name of the law, consult the Popular Name Index to either the USC, USCA, or USCS. (online/Lexis)  If you have only the USC, USCA, or USCS citation, consult the Legislative History information following the section number to obtain a date and Public Law number.  For example, the Historical and Statutory Notes for 29 USCA Sec. 2601 indicate that this statutory section is taken from the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, P.L. 103-3, February 5, 1993, 107 Stat 6.

2. Print Sources - Compiled Legislative Histories.

A. Consult Johnson, Nancy P., Sources of Compiled Legislative Histories, KF 42.2, also in HeinOnline, for a list of legislative history titles relative to your Public Law number.  If a legislative history has not been compiled for your law, proceed to compile your own.

B. Consult our online catalog to determine if we have whatever titles you may have found in Johnson.  Also do a subject search as we may have some compiled legislative histories not identified in Johnson.

3. Print Sources - Post 1970.  Consult the Congressional Information Service (CIS) Index and Abstracts volumes located on the first floor, Ben's Den (covers 1970-2005)   KF 49.C62.

A. For laws enacted beginning in 1984 (98th Congress) consult the Legislative Histories of U.S. Public Laws volumes using the Public Law number or the U.S. Statutes at Large citation.

B. For laws enacted between 1970 and 1984, consult the Public Laws section in the rear of the Abstract volume for the appropriate year.

You may obtain the full text of the cited documents as follows:

A. Note the year and copy the CIS number (H420, S250, etc.) and proceed to room 233 where the CIS microfiche collection (1970-2002) is housed and print copies from the microfiche.

B. Major House and Senate reports accompanying a bill that becomes enacted into law are reprinted in the United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) located on the second  floor adjacent to the USCA.  These volumes are organized by year.

C. The Hatfield Library has the Congressional Serial Set from 1967 which reprints U.S. Government publications.  Ask a librarian for assistance in finding your document(s).

4.    Print Sources - 1943 to 1970:

A. In the absence of a compiled legislative history consult USCCAN for the appropriate year using the Congressional Comments Section for years 1943 through 1947 and the "Legislative History" volumes thereafter to look up your Public Law number.  Usually you will find that the principal Senate or House report will be reprinted in full.

B. The Oregon State Library on the Capitol Mall has a substantial collection of federal documents, including hearings, shelved by the U.S. Superintendent of Documents number (su docs #).  Ask a librarian for assistance.

C. For legislative history information prior to 1943, consult with a librarian.

5.    Online Access:

A.   Government Printing Office (GPO): Selected documents consisting of Public Laws, Senate and House reports and hearings for each Congressional session from the 104th Congress (1995-96) forward can be found at the GPO access site: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/

B.   HeinOnline: Click on U.S. Federal Legislative History Library.

C.   Lexis: Click on Federal Legal - U.S. and then click on Legislative History and Materials.  Lexis uses legislative histories prepared by CIS.  Therefore, you will find information from 1970 forward.

D.    Westlaw: A limited number of legislative histories have been prepared by the Washington D.C. law firm of Arnold and Porter.  From the database directory, click on "U.S. Federal materials"; and then click on" Arnold & Porter". Also click on "Legislative History."