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Federal Legislative History

This guide will discuss the types of documents that comes from the legislative process and the steps taken to locate legislative documents.

Floor Debates

Activities which occur on the floor of the two chambers of Congress. Individual comments during debates are not proof of congressional intent, but statements by the bill's sponsor or chairman of the committee reporting the bill, especially with the state stated intention of clarifying or explaining the bill can have significant weight. Statements made in floor debates have been found useful as sources of legislative intent, but many commentators have pointed out their limitations as accurate explanations of a bill's meaning. Remarks are published in the Congressional Record, which is published in two editions: the daily edition and the bound edition. The daily edition is published every day when Congress is in session. The paperbound daily edition has page numbers that begin with S (Senate), H (house), E (Extension of Remarks, and D (Daily Digest). The permanent "bound edition" is published very slowly (approximately four years) after the Daily Edition.

When citing to the Congressional Record, cite to the Bound Edition if available (last published is v. 152 in 2006). The page numbers in the two editions do not correspond, so you must rely on the indexes or identical searches in the Bound Edition and Daily Edition databases to find the corresponding records. There is no resource to help you compare the two page numbers.

Some of the places to locate The Congressional Record and prior publications (Annals of Congress, Register of Debates, and The Congressional Globe) are listed below.

Committee Prints

Studies, statements, reports, background information, working drafts of a bill, legislative histories or other compiled information prepared for a particular committee, normally by the committee staff. Committee prints are not automatically published or distributed.

Appropriations

The Constitution provides for Congress to appropriate money to be spent by the Federal Government. The White House issues the Budget of the United States in February of each year.

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