Legislative History Materials

The Statute or Bill

To prepare a legislative history, one must first know the exact citation of the relevant statute. If you don’t know the number of the statute that you want, but know the Popular Name of the act, such as the “Family and Medical Leave Act,” you can look in the popular names table or, if you only know the general topic of the act, you can use the index to the United States Code Annotated [KF 62 1927 .W45] or the United States Code Service [KF 62 1972 .L38] to locate the proper statute number. Once you have this citation, you can locate the statute in the U.S.C.A. or U.S.C.S. and look in the “Historical and Statutory Notes” section or “History” section to find historical information on that statute, including the Public Law number and Statutes at Large citation for that act. You will need these numbers to continue your research, as the legislative history materials are organized according to the Pub. L. number or Stat. number, not the U.S.C.A. citation. Don’t forget to check for any recent amendments or changes to your statute, and find the Pub. L. number and Stat. number for these also.

The full text of the United States Code is available in print at both the Law Library and the MSU Main Library, and also at the Government Printing Office’s website, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/uscode/index.html

In some cases, you may wish to do a legislative history of a bill that was never passed into law. The bill will not be listed in the U.S.C.A. or the U.S.C.S., as these titles publish only enacted law. Therefore, you will have to use the bill or resolution number in conducting your legislative history research. Most on-line sources will allow you to conduct a search using these numbers.


U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN)

The U.S. Code Congressional Administrative News, or USCCAN, [KF 48] is published by West Publishing Company. This is a great resource to consult when one is looking only for what might be the most persuasive or most important legislative history documents. It contains selected legislative history materials, such as Congressional or committee reports and presidential messages, for bills passed by Congress. It does not contain information on bills that were considered by Congress, but ultimately rejected. For information on bills that were not passed, see the Congressional Information Service (described elsewhere on this page).

The USCCAN collection at the Law Library contains selected volumes from the 77th through 79th Congresses (1942-1946), and volumes covering every session of Congress thereafter. The Main Library holds USCCAN volumes for the years 1950 through 1996 [KH .A1 U56]. USCCAN is organized first by Congress and session number (located on the spine of the volume), and then by Public Law number. USCCAN contains the text of the law as passed by Congress, and also contains selected materials regarding the law in its “Legislative History” section. These materials are not comprehensive, but rather include only the more important documents, as selected by the West Publishing Company. USCCAN is a great place to start one’s legislative history research, especially if one is looking only for what might be the most important and persuasive documents.


Congressional Information Service (CIS)

This service includes commercially published legislative histories, as well as reprints of all of the documentation relevant to each statute or proposed statute considered by Congress. The CIS Index, Abstracts & Legislative Histories volumes cover materials produced from 1970 to the present that are available on microfiche located on level one of the Law Library. These materials can be accessed either via print index, located near the microfiche [KF 49 .C62], or via the electronic version of the documents and index, Congressional Universe. The Main Library also holds the print version of the CIS Index, Abstracts & Legislative Histories [J69 .C58].

The print CIS volumes are organized into three separate parts for each year: Index, Abstracts, and Legislative History. To locate materials by subject or keyword, use the index for the year or years in which your statute was considered or passed. The Index will refer you to the Abstracts of the materials that relate to your subject. To quickly locate the complete listing of the legislative history materials on a given statute, use the Legislative History volume. This source is organized by Public Law number and Statutes at Large number, and is separated into volumes by year. Separate CIS print Legislative History volumes are available only for legislative histories compiled from 1984 to the present; earlier editions include the legislative histories in either the Abstracts or Index volumes. Use the CIS numbers listed for each source referenced in the Index, Abstracts, or Legislative History volumes to access the full text materials in microfiche format.

You can also access the CIS index, abstracts, legislative histories, and most of the relevant documents with the online version, Congressional Universe, available via a link from the Law Library Home Page. Use Congressional Universe to search “Legislative Histories by number” using the Public Law number or Statutes at Large citation of your statute. However, if you don’t have these numbers, you can also search Congressional Universe by subject, keyword, title, witness, bill number, document number, or other bibliographic information.

Once you have located the legislative history information for the bill or statute that you are researching, you can browse through the list of all of the Congressional and Executive documents that reference your bill or statute, including floor debate, House and Senate reports, hearing transcripts, and presidential remarks. To view abstracts of these documents, click on the link labeled “CIS No.” If you find materials that you would like to examine in their entirety, you may locate them in our microfiche collection using this CIS number. The microfiche reading machine also functions as a copier for microfiche materials.


Congressional Record

Transcripts of floor debate of bills in both the House and Senate are not reproduced by CIS. To access these materials, you will need the date and page number provided in the CIS legislative history (in either the print or electronic version) under the “Debate” section. This information can then be used to locate transcripts of the debate in the Congressional Record. These transcripts include the legislative debate that took place on the floor, and also include revised remarks by the individual legislators.

The Congressional Record is available in print in the Law Library [KF 35] for the current year only. Beginning with the year 1949, all Congressional Record materials are available in microfiche at the Law Library. The Main Library holds the Congressional Record [X 182 WG 7] for the years 1873 to the present.

The Congressional Record may be accessed using information obtained in the CIS legislative history. Locate the fiche by exact date (provided in the CIS legislative history), and then locating the page number (also provided in the CIS legislative history) in either the House (H) or Senate (S) report for that day. If you are researching a statute that was passed prior to 1970 (the first date for which CIS materials are available), you may access the Congressional Record using the Congressional Record Index, which is available in the Law Library in microfiche form, organized by Congressional Record volume number. The MSU Main Library has the Congressional Record Index available in print [X 188] from 1873 to the present. The microfiche reading machine also functions as a copier for microfiche materials.

The Government Printing Office maintains a free website, http://www.gpoaccess.gov/legislative.html, that contains the full text of the Congressional Record since 1994. The Congressional Record is also available through Library of Congress' THOMAS website <http://thomas.loc.gov/>. Lexis and Westlaw coverage of the Congressional Record begins with the year 1985.


Congressional Quarterly

The Congressional Quarterly collects materials that highlight major actions of Congress in each year. There are two publications – the Congressional Quarterly Almanac and the Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report.

The Congressional Quarterly Almanac is essentially a yearbook of Congress, highlighting major activities of the Congress for a given year. The Law Library holds the Congressional Quarterly Almanac [JK 1 .C66] for the years 1980 to the present. The Main Library holds this title for the years 1945 to the present. The CQ Almanac contains a collection of articles from CQ Weekly (described below) and also records all of the votes taken in the House and Senate, and important presidential statements and responses from members of Congress. A number of appendixes provide information regarding members of the House and Senate, studies of the roll call votes cast in Congress, accounts of key votes, selected texts, a listing of all public laws passed in that year, and a complete set of roll call vote charts.

The Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report provides detailed coverage of Congress, the Presidency, the Supreme Court, and national politics. The Main Library [JK 1 .C15] holds this title for the years from 1951 to 1998.


Legislative Histories by Information Handling Services

Information Handling Service provides legislative histories of acts of Congress from the 82nd Congress (1951) through a portion of the 93rd Congress (1973). It also provides legislative histories of the Internal Revenue acts from the 61st Congress (1909) through a portion of the 93rd Congress. These histories are provided on microfiche on level one of the Law Library. The microfiche are arranged by Congress, and then organized by Public Law number. The set's indexes, located in the Reference Collection [Ref KF 42.2 1977], are separated by time period. Volume 1 Part A contains the 82nd through 93rd Congresses. Volume 1 Part B contains the Internal Revenue acts from the 61st to 81st Congresses. The indexes are organized into three sections. Section 1 contains the Table of Contents for each legislative history in the set. Section 2 contains cross-reference tables, organized by Congress for locating a statute by public law number, bill number, Statutes at Large citation, or popular name. Section 3 contains a cumulated cross reference and subject index, which merge information on all of the legislative histories covered in that part of the index.



Westlaw has several resources for compiling a legislative history. The “Legislative History” database [LH] contains Congressional committee reports and Presidential signing statements. The database has only selective coverage from 1948 to 1989, and more complete coverage from 1990 to the present, including reports on bills that did not become law. This database also contains legislative history of securities laws from 1933 to the present.

The Congressional Bills database [CONG-BILLTXT] contains the text of all versions of the various bills and resolutions that have been introduced in the current Congress. A complimentary database is the United States Public Laws database [US-PL], which includes documents passed by Congress during the current term. The United States Public Laws 1973-1998 [US-PL-OLD] contains documents passed by Congress in those years, including those documents that have not been classified to the United States Code.

The Congressional Record database [CR] contains documents released for publication in the Congressional Record, beginning with the First Session of the 99th Congress (1985).

The U.S. Congressional Testimony database [USTESTIMONY] contains witness lists and transcripts of oral and written statements for U.S. Congressional committee hearings. Coverage begins with January of 1993, and the database is updated daily when Congress is in session. Similarly, the Congressional Testimony [CONGTMY] database contains articles, columns, letters, briefings, testimony, and official documents collected from Congressional committees. Coverage begins with July 19, 1995.

Westlaw also provides selected legislative histories of well-known statutes. The databases are:



Lexis also maintains a number of databases that provide legislative history materials. There are several databases of Congressional Bill Tracking Reports for the 105th to 101st Congresses [BLT105, BLT104, BLT103, BLT102, BLT101]. These databases track bills from introduction in Congress to signature by the President, noting changes in the bill and its progression through the various committees and subcommittees. Additionally, the Congressional Full Text of Bills databases, for the 105th to 101st Congresses [BTX105, BTX 104, BTX 103, BTX102, BTX101], contain the full text of all bills introduced in the chosen Congress. For current information, reference the Congressional Record – Current Congress – Codes Library database [106TH] for transcripts of the Congressional Record for the 106th Congress. There are also older versions of the Congressional Record, each collected under database identifiers using the number of the Congress, going back to the 99th Congress [99TH].

Another database provided by Lexis is the Federal Document Clearing House Congressional Hearings Summaries [HEARING]. This database contains transcripts of congressional hearings, individual written testimony of witnesses, and detailed reports of select committee hearings. Coverage varies, as the information is compiled from several different sources.

Lexis also contains several databases of legislative histories of some well-known statutes, especially regarding environmental issues. These are:


Congressional Research Service (CRS) Issue Briefs

The Congressional Research Service works exclusively for Congress. Part of the Library of Congress, the CRS is known for its non-partisanship and in-depth analysis of issues. The CRS provides reports and issue briefs on major topics for the benefits of members of Congress who are considering proposed bills. Reports and briefs from 1973-date are available in the Law Library. Some reports are also available on the free web. Please see this Law Library research guide for more information, http://law.msu.edu/library/substantive/CRSReports.pdf.