United States Legislative History


Carla Pritchett
Tulane Law Library

The Federal Legislative Process: How Is Federal Legislative History Made?

(See How a Bill becomes a Law)

  1. Bill Drafts - Sometimes bills are drafted outside of Congress by special interest groups or trade associations and sponsored later by legislators.

  2. Bills - Most bills are introduced in the House but can also come from the Senate. Different versions of a bill, as it goes from a committee to the House floor then to the Senate floor, are good sources of legislative intent indicating deliberate choices of words.

  3. Congressional Hearings and Committee Prints - Hearings are held on some specific, pending legislative proposals (one or more related bills or drafts) or as oversight or investigative hearings on general topics to study federal programs or potential government action. These oversight hearings can develop into legislation. Hearings include transcripts of discussion of proposals for new or suggested changes to pending legislation and other testimony of witnesses before a congressional body. Committee prints usually contain statements or research studies by the committee, staff or experts about legislation.

  4. Congressional Committee Reports and Documents - When a bill is approved and amended by its assigned committee, it is printed and reported to the floor of the House or Senate for debate. These reports and documents frequently describe a bill's contents and purposes and give reasons for the committee's recommendations. A committee minority view is sometimes given. Committees issue reports and documents on studies and investigations not related to any particular bill and also publish compiled legislative histories of bills assigned to the committee. Reports are bound as part of a numbered series called the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

  5. Congressional Debates - Congressional debates, or discussions on pending legislation, take place on the floor of the House or Senate and are printed in the Congressional Record.

  6. Presidential Approval or Veto Messages - Presidential messages accompany legislation proposed to Congress by the executive and are often issued when the president signs or vetoes a bill. These often explain the reasons for proposing, signing or vetoing legislation.

Resources: What Documents Are Used To Compile A Federal Legislative History?

(See U.S. Administrative & Legislative Information Sources)

Summary: How Do I Compile A Legislative History?

United States Administrative & Legislative Information Sources
Legislative History:
State Administrative & Legislative Information Sources

United States Legislative History
August 2008