Legislative Histories

Background Information | Legislative Process | Numbers to Know

Background Information

Congress and the Nation, 1945+ (Floor 2 Reference Area, JK 1001 .C55)

Congressional Quarterly Almanac, 1945+ (Floors 2 Reference Area, JK 1 .C66)

Usually published in June for the preceding year

Indexes major topic areas

Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, 1945+ (Floors 2 Reference Area, JK 1 .C66)

Gives a weekly summary of what's happening in Congress

Offers behind the scenes and political information.

Identifies bills, which may be on topics relevant to social policy

Gives floor votes

Produces cumulative quarterly indexes

Quarterly indexes are published 6 weeks after the end of the quarter. They are cumulative throughout the year. You can also browse the back page of recent issues for the very latest information

When reading Congressional Quarterly, be sure to note:

The bill numbers

The key players (i.e. key Members of Congress).

CQ Researcher

Information on subject of current interest or controversy, including many social issues. Covers recent developments, pros/cons, alternatives, and includes a bibliography.

GPO Monthly Catalog

Indexes United States government documents, reports, hearings, etc. from 1976 to the present

Searchable by keyword, author, agency, and SuDoc classification numbers

  • Paper copies also available dating from 1789-1997 on Floor 4 in Documents Area, GP 1.2:

Hill on the Web 

Weekly newspaper on Congress with focus on behind the scenes information about members

Searchable archives since June 1999


Daily periodical with current policy news, issue of the week, and in-depth analysis of 20 current policy issues

Virtual Congress features speeches and votes on topics

Roll Call

Several articles on today's Congressional news; archive only by subscription

Extensive policy briefings on a current topic (e.g. appropriations) changed every few weeks

Full text since 1989 also available in Academic Universe (ISU Only)

Identify through Congressional Universe (ISU Only) under the Congressional Publications heading

All publications are located in the Government Documents Stacks on Floor 2 either in paper copy, microfiche, or both

Legislative Process

Congressional Committee Publications

Congressional Committee Publications are important because most action and lobbying takes place in committees. Most committee information is published, but there may be a time lag of 6 months to 2 years on hearings.

Hearings and Testimony

Hearings give a wealth of information, often in question-and-answer format:

    • testimony on proposed legislation
    • testimony on nominations
    • testimony on investigations
    • testimony on appropriations

The people who testify include lobbyists, members of the Executive Branch, and outside experts.

Printed hearings can be found in the Documents Stacks on Floor 2

Committee Prints

Committee Prints are another useful source. They are research reports written FOR the Committee.

Committee Prints can be found in the Documents Stacks on Floor 2


Reports are recommendations written BY the committee for the House or Senate.

Committee Reports can be found on paper in the Documents Stacks on Floor 2.


Congressional Universe (ISU Only)

Offers indexes and abstracts beginning in 1970. Identify publications by searching under CIS Index.

Includes full texts of testimony available since 1988 under Testimony.

U.S. Serial Set Index

Extensive indexing for House, Senate, and Joint Committee prints and reports

Located in Reference area on Floor 2 Reference, Ref Z 1223 .Z9 C65 1975

Committee Markups

Markups are committee meetings on bills after the hearings have been held. The committee may alter or "markup" the original bill before voting on it.

The only source is Academic Universe. Use markup as a search term in the News/Transcripts/All Transcripts section.

House and Senate Bills

Indexes bills beginning 1989 by keyword, sponsor, bill number and Congress

Advanced Search Strategies option under keyword searching permits numerous proximity indicators

  • w/p (words within paragraph); w/n (words within a number); w/s (words within sentence)
  • Example: china w/10 (world trade organization or most favored nation)
  • Additional protocols at bottom of keyword searching page

Provides full text

Legislative status includes citations to committee referrals and Congressional Record with hot links to bill text and roll call votes

Links to hearings, committee prints, and reports are found in bill number search in a separate section entitled Congressional Publications

Complete legislative histories for bills passed into law includes with hot links to all publications appears under Congressional Publications

Best public source for downloading complete text of bills
Bill Summary and Status

Indexes bills by subject, sponsor, committee, and stage of legislative process (e.g. reported to House), 1973+

Provides summary of bill and detailed status, including mention of markup sessions and citations to page in the Congressional Record

Provides links to the full text, 1993+

Bill Text

Full text beginning 1993

Searchable by keyword or bill number only

Easier to eliminate this step and just search Bill Summary and Status

Floor Debates and Votes
Just as hearings give lobby groups a chance to voice their opinions, the floor debates give the opinions of Members of Congress.

Annals of Congress, 1789-1824
  • Printed volumes in Government Documents Reference Stacks, Floor 2
  • Full text available through Century of American Lawmaking from the Library of Congress

Century of American Lawmaking (Library of Congress) http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/amlaw/lawhome.html

TIFF images of

  • Annals of Congress (1789-1821)
  • House and Senate Journals (1789-1821)
  • Senate Executive Journal (1789-1823)
  • Journal of William Maclay (1789-91)
  • Journals of the Continental Congress (1774-1789)

Individual issues browsable; search engine for entire collection rather than individual titles

Project will ultimately extend to 1873

Congressional Globe, 1833-73

Printed volumes in Documents Stacks, Floor 2
Congressional Record, 1873+

Paper copy in Documents Stacks, Floor 2

Congressional Universe (ISU Only) carries the full text beginning 1985

Indexes the Congressional Record by speaker, keyword, and date since 1985 and provides the full text. It can be accessed under Publications/Congressional Record

GPO Access

Provides a keyword index since 1983 but not the full text


Indexing and full text dating to 1993

Contains the bills, bill indexes, and the full text of the Congressional Record.

Register of Debates, 1824-1837

Printed volumes in Documents Stacks, Floor 2

Presidential Statements
The President may make a statement about a bill, and can either sign or veto it.

Statements by the current President

Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents

Archival set of statements dating to 1961.

Weekly Compilation can be found in the Documents Stacks Floor 4: AE 2.109 : volume/issue

Full text since 1995 also available in EBSCO Academic Search Premier (ISU Only)

Laws and Regulations

Public Laws (New Laws as Passed)

Laws are passed by Congress. They define overall objectives and appropriations. New laws are often amendments to previous laws and can be difficult to read. Some new laws, such as those entitled "omnibus," can cover several different subjects.

Indexes new public laws since 1969

Provides the full text since 1988

Indexes all laws since 1973

Provides the full text since 1993

United States Statutes at Large, 1789-1823

Full text of public laws passed by Congress, 1st-17th Congresses, and private laws, lst-28th Congress (as of Aug. 1999)

Browsable only

List of public laws begins in Volume 1, p. xvii; use page number given for a law in the page-turner box at the bottom of the screen

List of private laws in Volume 4

United States Statutes at Large, 1789+

Located in Documents Reference on Floor 2

United States Code (Laws in Force)

The United States Code has the text of all laws in force, arranged into 50 titles or subject areas. New laws are divided by subject and amendments are incorporated into existing laws. It is easier to read than individual new laws but difficult to search via computer due to the number of search results.

Full text of existing law-in-force and is updated on a monthly basis.

Searchable by keyword and citation.

  • To narrow a search in Congressional Universe, use the atleast command. Sample search: atleast5 (interracial adoption).
The United States Code is also available in paper. Its call number is: AE 2.110/2: and it is located in the Documents Reference Area

Numbers to Know

Congress and Session Numbers

In recognizing the numbers that represent the congress and session for legislative information, you can easily browse through print and electronic texts to locate the needed document.

Years of Congress Conversion Table Indiana Universtiy-Bloomington)

Lists each Congress and session, beginning with the first in 1789

Provides the opening and closing dates

  • Especially handy for tracking the text of bills, hearings, and committee reports when only the Congress is cited

H.Rpt. 103-2

House Report from the 103rd Congress, 2nd Session

Public Law Numbers

Closely related to the Congress and Session number is the Public Law Number. The first number of the Public Law refers to the Congress number in which the law was passed. The second number, following the dash, refers to the sequential order in which the bill was passed.


P.L. 104-104

104th law enacted in the the 104th Congress

  • Public Law could be located in the Congressional Universe index, through Thomas, or by locating the paper copy in the Documents Reference Area on Floor 4, AE 2.111:104-104

SuDocs Classification Numbers

The SuDocs number is a government publications call number that always has a colon (:) in it and looks like this example:

Y 4.M 53:103.

SuDocs numbers generally follow a mnemonic pattern. For example the letter A stands for Agriculture; the letter C for Commerce; HE for Health and Human Services; etc. If you would like to locate the paper copy of a government document, be sure to write down its SuDocs number.


Y 4.L 11/4:S.Hrg 104-43

43rd hearing in the 104th Congress, produced in the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources

  • Senate Hearing could be located through the Congressional Universe index and full text found in the Documents Stacks on Floor 2.

ASI and CIS Numbers

Congressional Information Services is a commercial company that indexes and provides full text microfiche copies of selected government information. In addition to using the SuDoc numbers to organize documents, their databases also they also include their own classification numbers to cite their microfiche documents. These numbers are prefaced by an ASI or CIS. A selection of the microfiche is located in microfiche cabinets on floor 2.


ASI 99-H240-11

  • Eleventh piece of American Statistical Information microfiche from 1999

Background Information | Legislative Process | Numbers to Know

Milner Library, Illinois State University
Page Contact: Angela Bonnell
Last Modified: 2011-01-21 16:54:41