The text of the legislation itself provides important insight for federal legislative history researchers, particularly in determining legislative intent.
Testimony from Congressional witnesses and supplemental materials from experts like reports, exhibits, and correspondence help Congressional committees understand and make decisions about proposed legislation. Committee hearings are key components of a legislative history.
Other useful Congressional materials include:
House and Senate committee reports reflect the recommendations about a bill from a House or Senate Committee to an entire Chamber of Congress. Frequently, committee reports will contain an analysis of the text of a bill, as well as a description of the background and purpose of the bill. Conference committee reports provide particularly pertinent information, as these are created when differing versions of a bill need to be reconciled into a compromise bill between the House and Senate.
Debates on bills, as well as remarks and statements from Members of Congress that occur on the House or Senate floor, also provide insight about the passage of a law. The Congressional Record is the official documentation of these proceedings and debates.
The Congressional Record is published in Daily and Permanent editions. The Daily edition is updated the day following each day that Congress is in session. The Permanent edition is the indexed, repaginated version of the Daily edition, and is published after a Congressional session ends.
Information prior to 1873 can be found in the Congressional Record's predecessor publications (the Annals of Congress (1789-1824), the Register of Debates (1824-1837), and the Congressional Globe (1833-1873)).