The U.S. Congress produces a large number and wide variety of documents during the legislative process. This is a guide to finding historical and current Congressional information at the UNT Libraries and on the Internet.
These publications are not just useful for following the progress of a law; they are also an excellent source of information on topics that are of particular interest to the public during a given time. These topics include scientific undertakings, historical events, social welfare, economic conditions, communication policies, and other subjects dealing with public policy and life in general.
Bills and Resolutions contain the text of laws as they are introduced, debated, and approved by Congress. The earlier versions of these bills can sometimes be difficult to track down, especially if the bill did not succeed in becoming a law.
Committee Hearings provide an official, verbatim record of congressional committee hearings proceedings, which are held to gather opinions and information to help members of Congress to make decisions regarding proposed legislation or to help them fulfill their oversight and investigation responsibilities. They include written and oral statements of witnesses; transcripts of the verbal question-and-answer session between the committee and witnesses; reports, exhibits, and other materials submitted for the record by witnesses; and correspondence and other materials submitted by interested parties. Most, but not all, hearings are open to the public, but not all committee hearings are published.
Committee Prints are publications issued by congressional committees on topics pertaining to their legislative or research activities or on other congressional matters, such as memorial tributes. These documents are an excellent source of statistical and historical information and of legislative analyses. Theys are viewed primarily as internal background information, however, and often are not distributed to the public.
Reports and Documents that provide background on the subject of a proposed law and the committee's recommendation on whether the law should be passed are contained primarily in the U.S. Serial Set, which began publication in 1817. Reports and documents issued before 1817 can be found in the American State Papers. These reports often contain the full text of the bill being reported on, making them a potential source for finding the text of some bills that did not pass.
Senate Executive Reports contain treaties submitted by the president to the Senate for approval, as well as the Senate's recommendations concerning the ratification of the proposed treaty. They were not included in the Serial Set until 1980, and after 1981 they were called Senate Treaty Documents. Senate Executive Documents also contain the President's nominations of individuals for public offices that require the Senate's approval.
CRS Reports contain research provided by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) exclusively for members of Congress, their committees, and their staffs. CRS does not provide direct public access to its reports, requiring citizens to request them from their senators or representatives. Some members of Congress, as well as several non-profit groups, have posted the reports on their Web sites.
Proceedings and Debates that take place on the House and Senate floors are contained primarily in the Congressional Record and its predecessors: the Congressional Globe, the Register of Debates in Congress, and the Annals of Congress. These works provide a detailed account of the speeches and discussions that take place in the House and Senate chambers. Further resources related to a given topic often appear in the appended "extensions of remarks."
Congressional Information on the Library of Congress Web Site provides more information about congressional publications.
LLSDC's Legislative Source Book provides numerous guides and explanations on how to research the U.S. Congress and the federal legislative process, as well as other resources lists and links related to U.S. law and legislation.
Citation Guide: U.S. Congressional Publications provides information from the Library of Congress on how to cite historical legislative materials in various styles.