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Top sources for tracing and researching federal legislation:

Guides to Federal Legislation

Analysis and Commentary

CRS Reports

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is a non-partisan public policy research arm of the United States Congress. CRS provides reports to members of Congress on a variety of topics relevant to current political events.

Find the Text of a Bill

Bill Tracking Reports
A bill tracking report enables you to follow the status of a bill in the legislative process; bill tracking reports are arranged chronologically.  If you are researching a bill that did not pass, you can use the tracking report to find out what happened to it. Use Congress.gov and Proquest Congressional to find bill tracking reports


Legislative Histories (via ProQuest Congressional)
Legislative histories enable users to trace the development of a public law from its early consideration to its enactment, including development that spans more than one Congress.  Legislative information is grouped by type of publication, e.g. debate, hearings, reports, etc.

Debates

The official transcripts of House and Senate floor activity are published daily in the Congressional Record.

Online Access

Print copies

  • 1985-88: YRL A-Level Microfiche
  • 1789-1824, Annals of Congress, YRL Stacks J 11. R5
  • 1825-1837, Register of Debates in Congress, YRL Stacks J 11. R5
  • 1833-1873, Congressional Globe, YRL Stacks J 11. R 5
  • 1873-2010, Congressional Record, YRL Stacks J 11. R5

*Note: print copies for all years may also be obtained at the UCLA Law Library.

The Serial Set: Reports and Documents

House and Senate Reports
Congressional committees report and make recommendations to the House or Senate as a whole. These reports concern the findings of committee hearings or the outcome of committee deliberations. They can contain discussions of legislative intent, a short history of a bill, and comparisons of current and proposed law text. Not every bill ordered reported makes it to this stage. If the report isn't written and filed, the bill dies just as if it had not been ordered reported at all.  For more information see ProQuest Congressional Help.

  • GPO.gov, 104th (1995) to current
  • Congress.gov, Committee Reports 104th to current
  • Proquest Congressional 101st - current
  • Print copies are available in the YRL stacks under J 66 (you need to know the congress number, house or senate, and report number.  Reports for the 110th and 111th Congress are located in Map Reading Room on the A-level of YRL.

House and Senate Documents
House and Senate documents are the class of publications issued by congressional committees or the full House or Senate that are numbered with the designation H. Doc. or S. Doc. This publication type can contain: Presidential messages proposing new legislation or vetoing legislation passed by Congress; special reports of executive branch agencies; congressional committee activity reports; committee-sponsored special studies and background information published as official documents rather than committee prints; annual reports of certain patriotic and veterans groups; memorial tributes; and compilations of background information related to annual intercollegiate and high school debate topics. For more information see, ProQuest Congressional Help.

  • GPO.org, 94th; 96th; 99th to 101th; 103rd to current
  • ProQuest Congressional  98th - current
  • Print copies area available in the YRL Stacks under J 66.

Hearings -- Testimony

A committee hearing is a meeting or session of a Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress, usually open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. In addition, hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, providing testimony and data about topics of current interest.

  • GPO.gov, 99th; 100th; 102nd to current
  • ProQuest Congressional, Indexing 1824 to current; Selected transcripts and submitted statements from 1988-present

Prints

The official committee prints publication category began when committees started to issue printed versions of their own internal working papers. Today, committee prints include a wide variety of publications approved and issued by committees or portions of committees, such as majority or minority staff. Some basic varieties of committee prints include: draft reports and bills, directories, statistical materials, investigative reports, historical reports, situational studies, confidential staff reports, hearings, and legislative analyses.

Votes

Members vote in three ways on the floor: (1) by shouting "aye" or "no" on voice votes; (2) by standing for or against on division votes; and (3) on recorded votes (including the yeas and nays), by answering "aye" or "no" when their names are called or, in the House, by recording their votes through the electronic voting system.

Voting. (2001). In American Congressional dictionary. Washington: CQ Press. Retrieved April 12, 2009, from CQ Press Electronic Library, CQ Congress Collection, http://library.cqpress.com/congress/amcndc-0000330810.

To find out more about Voting in Congress, read this article from CQ:

Voting in Congress. (2008). In Congress a to z, 5th ed. American government a to z series. Washington: CQ Press. Retrieved April 12, 2009, from CQ Press Electronic Library, CQ Congress Collection, http://library.cqpress.com/congress/coaz5d_584.1

Roll Call Votes

  1. Generally, any vote in which members are recorded by name for or against a measure; also called a record vote or roll-call vote. The only recorded vote in the Senate is a vote by the yeas and nays; it is commonly called troll-call vote.
  2. Technically, a recorded vote is a vote demanded in the House and supported by at least one-fifth of a quorum (forty-four members) in the House sitting as the House or at least twenty-five members in Committee of the Whole. Only one demand for a recorded vote on a pending question is permitted, but a member can make the demand before or immediately after a voice or division vote.

-Recorded Vote. (2001). In American Congressional dictionary. Washington: CQ Press. Retrieved April 12, 2009, from CQ Press Electronic Library, CQ Congress Collection, http://library.cqpress.com/congress/amcndc-0000330584.

Information on Elected Officials (Directories)

Signing Statements

What is a signing statement?  Answer provided by the American Presidency Project at UCSB.

Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents  or Weekly Comp via GPO.gov (1993 to current) Note: use the following search string: "statement on signing"

Public Papers of the President of the United States via GPO.gov (1991/G. H. W. Bush - current) Note: use the following search string: "statement on signing". Print editions available in the YRL Reference Reading Room, Call # J80 .A283.