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Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide

Congressional Committee Reports

Congressional committee reports are created by the committees of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate. These reports are important sources for determining legislative intent, better understanding the “cultural history” of a piece of legislation, or locating a committee’s findings on an investigation into a given subject.

King of Jazz. Washington, D.C., March 16. Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz today urged the House Immigration Committee to report favorably the Dickstein Bill to restrict the entrance of alien stage artists into this country, Whiteman said that with the Dickstein Bill passed it would soon bring about the proper international treatment of artists
Harris and Ewing. King of Jazz. Paul Whiteman, King of Jazz today urged the House Immigration Committee to report favorably the Dickstein Bill to restrict the entrance of alien stage artists into this country, Whiteman said that with the Dickstein Bill passed it would soon bring about the proper international treatment of artists. March 16, 1937. Harris & Ewing Collection. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Print Resources

Many of the online databases above provide select access to committee reports in resources such as the Serial Set. For more complete access, use these resources at your local Federal Depository Library.

American State Papers and the United States Congressional Serial Set – The American State Papers and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set contain a variety of federal government information, including committee reports, in print and on microfiche. The American State Papers cover the years 1789-1838. The U.S. Congressional Serial Set was first published in 1817, and provides coverage up to the present day. The U.S. Congressional Serial Set has a variety of access points, including subject, keyword, name, reported bill number indexes, and a sequential list of titles and reference information for documents, including committee reports, for each session of Congress.

Congressional Record – Conference Reports are usually made available in the Congressional Record the day after they are filed. For information on how to access the Congressional Record and its predecessors in print, please see the "Debates of Congress" section.

As is true with many of the legislative history resources we discuss, the best place to find these items is in a federal depository library near you.  As noted on the Federal Depository Library Program website, “the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) distributes certain classes of Government documents free of cost to designated libraries throughout the United States and its territories. These libraries are known as Federal depository libraries.” To find your closest federal depository library, simply visit the website linked above, or use the FDLP advanced search.

Subscription Resources

The subscription resources marked with a padlock  are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress.  If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Free Online Resources