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Federal Government Documents & Legislation Research Guide: Legislative History Research

Legislative documents

Additional materials can be searched by performing searches on concepts or specific events:


Reviewing a term's varied definitions provides a more comprehensive understanding its use and meaning.


To access related encyclopedias, jump back to the bottom of the this guide's home page.

This page owes a big thank you to Mindy Kent, author of Harvard Law School Library's research guide.

Resources by Legislative Document Type

Getting Started with Legislative History

Each tab above will lead to resources on legislative documents, including print, electronic, and open access (free) resources. If you have any questions about or issues with accessing resources contact the UNM Law Library's reference desk.

If you are seeking information on New Mexico's legislative history, visit our guide: New Mexico Legal Research.

Compiled Legislative Histories: Getting Started

Beginning with compiled histories can save you time and effort, and are available through ProQuest, LexisNexis, and HeinOnline.

Compiled Legislative Histories: Dig into Electronic Resources

Compiled Legislative Histories: Dig into Print Resources

Review the book(s) suggested below our conduct a catalog search using subject headings:

Bill Status & Tracking: Getting Started

Bill Status & Tracking: Dig into Electronic Resources

Bill Status & Tracking: Dig into Print Resources

Microfiche & Microform, view onsite guide or ask at reference desk for assistance: US Serial Set 1st - 91st Congress 

Committee Reports: Getting Started

Committee Reports: Dig into Electronic Resources

Committee Reports: Dig into Print Resources

Microfiche & Microform, view onsite guide or ask at reference desk for assistance: US Serial Set 1st - 91st Congress 

Committee Hearings: Getting Started

Committee Hearings: Dig into Electronic Resources

Committee Hearings: Dig into Print Resources

The UNM Law Library does not hold print resources on hearings, but can assist you with your research. Read the below tips from the Library of Congress:

CIS Indexes (CIS Index to Unpublished U.S. House of Representatives Committee Hearings, 1833-1968 and CIS Index to Unpublished U.S. Senate Committee Hearings, 1823-1984) – CIS has multiple indexes to help you locate a hearing of interest. The subjects and organizations index includes subjects, laws discussed, the committee holding the hearing, and organizations discussed or represented at the hearing. The personal name index includes individuals who testify at the hearing and individuals who are discussed at the hearing. The supplementary index provides access to hearings by title and by bill number.

For hearings and congressional committee documents that are at least 20 (for the Senate) or 30 (for the House) years old, and cannot be found in any of the resources above, a researcher’s best option is likely to contact the National Archives and Records Administration‘s (NARA) Center for Legislative Archives.  NARA’s Center for Legislative Archives “holds the historically valuable records of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, including the official Committee records…[and] applies the rules of access for congressional records as determined by the House and the Senate.”  For more information regarding what is available at the Center for Legislative Archives, visit its “Getting Started With Your Research” page.

Congressional Debates: Getting Started

In addition to the Getting Started resource below, this tab includes resources pointing to:

  • Daily Edition & Congressional Record Permanent Edition
  • Congressional Globe & Register of Debates
  • Annals of Congress

Congressional Record Daily & Permanent Edition

The Daily Edition includes floor debates on legislative proposals, text of all floor amendments, occasional House and Senate bills and some Conference committee reports. Permanent Editions are the organized Daily Edition that integrates material chronologically. 

Congressional Globe & Register of Debates

The Congressional Globe (1833 - 1873) covers debates in Congress. Early coverage only summarizes the debates, but extensive, almost verbatim coverage began around 1851.  Early volumes overlap with the Register of Debates in Congress (1824 - 1837), which summarizes the "leading debates and incidents" in Congress.

Annals of Congress

The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, also known as the Annals of Congress, covers 1789-1824. Not all material is verbatim, but summarized.

House & Senate Journals

These journals record the matters, nominations, votes, treaties, and/or minutes of floor actions in Congress.

Documents & Reports

Treaty Documents, continued from Senate Executive Documents in 1981, communicated Presidential message to the Senate or executive nominations for government positions.

To access Senate Executive Reports document committee action on treaties. Confidential until 1930, they have been generally open to the public since 1980. Note that prior to 1895 the term Senate Executive Reports was applied to both messages to the Senate from the President, and to messages to the Senate from executive departments. For assistance finding these reports please contact the reference desk.

Documents & Reports: Digging Deeper into Treaties

Congressional Research Service (CRS)

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) works exclusively for the United States Congress, providing policy and legal analysis to committees and Members of both the House and Senate, regardless of party affiliation. As a legislative branch agency within the Library of Congress, CRS has been a valued and respected resource on Capitol Hill for more than a century. CRS is well-known for analysis that is authoritative, confidential, objective and nonpartisan. Its highest priority is to ensure that Congress has 24/7 access to the nation’s best thinking.

Federation of American Scientists

U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) and
Congressional Budget Office (CBO)

GAO is an independent, nonpartisan agency investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

Since 1975, CBO has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.

News Sources

Public Opinion—United States

Public Opinion—Global

Creative Commons License

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