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Legislative Information- US Federal Government Documents: Congressional Information

Congress the Basics

The Legislative Process is a series of short videos (with text transcripts) from Congress.gov.

How Our Laws Are Made, issued by the House of Representatives, describes the steps in the consideration of a bill and the documents produced at each step of the legislative process.

 

Numbers and Dates of Congressional Sessions

Begin with the resources below to explore documents produced by the legislative branch, or use the tabs above to locate current and historical congressional information, broken out by type of document (bill, hearing, etc.).

 

Need more information about a senator or representative?

Bills and Resolutions

When a bill or resolution is introduced in the House or Senate it is assigned a bill or resolution number, the text is printed, and it is assigned to a committee. Full text of bills and resolutions can be found online:

For bills and resolutions not available online:

  • 73rd Congress (1933)-present on microfiche in the Yale Law Library
  • Pre-1933, on microfilm, may be borrowed from the Center for Research Libraries (search for Bills and Resolutions).

If a committee votes favorably on a bill, it is "reported" from that committee to the full House or Senate.  The bill is accompanied by an actual report, which explains the purpose of the bill, reviews past Congressional actions on the subject, specifies how the bill changes existing law and its expected effects on the federal budget and the national economy. Reports are identified by Congress and report number. Reports, along with Congressional documents, eventually get compiled into the Serial Set.

How to compile legislative histories:

A legislative history traces the chronology of the legislation and provides citations to the various documents relevant to the bill.

Published legislative histories:
 

Published legislative histories may be available from:

  • Orbis (Yale Library catalog) or MORRIS (Yale Law Library catalog). Keyword search: "legislative history" and keyword(s) related to the law.

Not every enacted law has a published legislative history. You may need to compile one yourself, using the resources highlighted in this guide.

See also: Yale Law Library’s Legislative History guide; some of the sources listed will be available to Yale Law School affiliates only. Contact Yale University Library's government documents librarian to find out which sources are available to you.

Laws

Slip Laws

Laws are called "slip laws" when they are first published.

Statutes at Large

At the end of each session of Congress, slip laws are compiled into volumes called the Statutes at Large, and are known as "session laws." The Statutes at Large present a chronological arrangement of the laws in the exact order that they have been enacted.

US Code

Every six years, laws get published in the U.S. Code, which is a subject arrangement of the law. 

  • U.S. Code, 1994-present (Government Printing Office)

More information about finding laws

Have the popular name of a law but not its citation (e.g., Public Law number, Statutes at Large citation, U.S. Code citation)? Start here:

Want more information on the publication of laws? 

Congressional Record

Speeches on the floor of the House and Senate are published in the Congressional Record, published daily when Congress is in session. The Congressional Record provides a full record of the proceedings of both the House and the Senate, and is organized in four parts: 

  • House of Representatives
  • Senate
  • Extensions of Remarks
  • Daily Digest

The Extensions of Remarks includes text that was not part of floor activity, but was inserted later; the Daily Digest is a summary of all Congressional activity for that day.

There are two editions of the Congressional Record: the daily edition and the bound (permanent) edition. The bound edition is produced following each session of Congress, when the daily Congressional Record is revised, printed, and bound. (The bound edition is also available in electronic format.)

About the Congressional Record (published by ProQuest) is an excellent, brief introduction; well worth reading for anyone planning to do research using the Record.

The Congressional Record began publication in 1873. Prior to that, Congressional debates were published in The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (also known as the Annals of Congress, 1789-1824), The Register of Debates in Congress (1824-1837), and The Congressional Globe (1833-1873).

The Congressional Record's predecessors are not identical to the Record; most include summaries, not verbatim transcripts of debates, and some volumes (like the Annals) were not published contemporaneously, but compiled later from sources like newspaper accounts.

In addition to the sources below, the Congressional Record's predecessors can also be found in ProQuest Congressional and HeinOnline, two of Yale's subscription databases. See "Finding the Congressional Record" above for more information.

Legislative Histories, Serial Set, and American State Papers

Serial Set

The Serial Set is comprised of House and Senate documents and reports, Senate executive reports, and Senate treaty documents.

Many details are available from FDLP's U.S. Congressional Serial Set: What It Is and Its History.

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set Finding List is a useful tool for lookups by agency name or SuDoc (Superintendent of Documents classification) number.

Online (Yale only) Online (public access) 1995-present

American State Papers

The American State Papers series (1789-1838) can be seen as the forerunner of the Serial Set. This series fills in the gap from 1789 to the first volume of the Serial Set (1817).

Hearings, CRS Reports, and Committee Prints

Congressional committee hearings contain the testimony of government officials and private individuals invited to appear before the committee to argue for or against passage of a bill. 

  • ProQuest Congressional (1824-present)
    To limit your search to hearings, select the Advanced Search option. From here, you can search by keyword, date, etc., as well as by witness name and/or witness affiliation.
  • Govinfo
    Selected hearings, primarily 104th Congress (1995-1996)-present.
  • To find hearings in print, search in Orbis. Using the Congressional committee as the "author" will often help locate these documents. Here is a link to microform.

See this list of resources for audio and video of hearings.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports offer in-depth analysis of public policy issues. Not all CRS reports have been made publicly available, but these are recommended starting points for your search.

Committee prints, written by congressional committee staff, provide background information to aid members of Congress in their consideration of a bill.