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Federal Legislative History


Researching and studying legislative history material may help interpret the intent behind a law or better understand the language of an act or statute. It can also answer questions related to committees and members involved, changes in language, and votes.

Many attorneys will have to compile a legislative history at some point in their legal career. To do so, they must pull together all available documents created by the legislature during a particular law's passage. Legislative history is defined as "[t]he proceedings leading to the enactment of a statute, including hearings, committee reports, and floor debates," Legislative History, Black's Law Dictionary (11th ed. 2019).

This guide may be used as a starting point when doing federal legislative history research. It provides information helpful to the process and focuses on the databases available with a Jenkins' membership that have done some of the work for you. These databases provide already compiled legislative histories. Many include full text documents, but at the very least they index material associated with a particular act. For how to access additional materials not included in this guide, such as Committee Hearings, Committee Reports, Committee Prints, House and Senate Documents, CRS Reports, and the Congressional Record, see the Congressional Documents guide. Since there is a wealth of information available from many sources, Jenkins Law Library might not have access to every document related to the passage of a law. To find additional federal materials, see all our Federal Research Guides.

For help using this Guide or for additional assistance compiling federal legislative histories, contact Research Services at 215.574.1505 or