Skip to Main Content

SW 320w - Library Guide

Federal legislative histories

Compiled legislative histories usually include bills, Congressional Record debates, reports and hearings.

Legislative history is the official record of the passage of a proposed statute through the stages of the legislative process.

Legislative History

  • Formally starts with the introduction of a measure in Congress by a Senator or Representative
  • For major initiatives, may begin before the formal introduction with a background Congressional investigative study, committee hearing from a previous Congress or draft of proposed legislation by the President.
  • Concludes with a Presidential signing into law or veto, unless it terminates short of enactment (the most common outcome)

Use legislative history tools to:

  • Discover the intent behind a piece of legislation
  • Track pending legislation
  • Trace the history of changes to a law

CRS Reports

Congressional Research Service (CRS), the research arm of the Library of Congress, provides authoritative, objective, and nonpartisan research and analysis to committees and members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, regardless of party and affiliation. CRS produces new research as issues develop or are anticipated, and their reports are designed specifically to meet the needs of Congress. CRS research, while on a variety of topics, falls under five divisions: American Law; Domestic Social Policy; Foreign Affairs, Defense and Trade; Government and Finance; and Resources, Science, and Industry.

Searching for articles related to legislative history

When searching for articles on the origins of legislation, consider using some of the following keywords with keywords for your legislation: 

  • Background 
  • Congress* 
  • Develop* 
  • Enact* 
  • Histor* 
  • House 
  • Legislat*  Origin* 
  • Overview 
  • Representative* 
  • Review 
  • Senat*