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Federal Legislative History

This research guide provides assistance to UCLA School of Law students tracing the legislative history of a federal statute.

What is a Committee Report?

Committee reports are issued to reflect the committee’s opinions on a bill.  They may be issued by a standing Congressional committee or, more helpfully, by a conference committee that has been appointed to draft a compromise on House and Senate versions of a bill.  

Reports usually reprint the text of the bill, describe its purposes, and give reasons for the committee's recommendations on the bill. They also often include the legislative history and a "section-by-section" analysis that is helpful for legislative history research with a narrow focus.  

Each report will be assigned a number that includes the chamber of Congress and the session number of Congress (For example, H. Rept. 115-701 was a report issued by a House Committee, in the 115th Congress). Conference committee reports are issued as House Reports (H. Rept.). 

Committee reports are published in several places:

  • The U.S. Congressional Serial Set was first published in 1817 and includes committee reports, Senate treaty materials, and presidential communications to Congress. Until 1953, it included the House and Senate Journals and, for certain time periods, it included selected hearings, bill text, committee prints, and reports by executive agencies to Congress.
  • The American State Papers was compiled after the Serial Set, to fill in gaps in the early years. It includes reports and other selected Congressional materials from 1789 to 1838.
  • United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN) is Westlaw's unofficial compilation of federal statutes by date. USCCAN also includes selected committee reports documenting the statutes' passage.

Finally, since the 1980s, an increasing number of reports have been released individually online, for free on government websites or through subscription databases.

ProQuest Congressional, Readex, and HeinOnline for Committee Reports

Generally, the fastest and easiest way to pull an individual committee report is via ProQuest Congressional:

Readex's Archive of American database also provides access to the reports published in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set:

Finally, HeinOnline provides access to committee reports through its collections of the American State Papers, U.S. Congressional Serial Set, and individual committee reports:

Free Websites for Committee Reports

If you are not a current UCLA student, faculty, or staff member, and cannot come to the UCLA campus to access HeinOnline, ProQuest, or Readex from the UCLA wireless or computers, you can access PDFs of selected committee reports for free online.

Recent committee reports are posted for free online by Congress and the U.S. Government Publishing Office:

Some older committee reports are available via scans of the American State Papers and U.S. Congressional Serial set posted by the Library of Congress:

Finally, the UC libraries and other library systems have posted scans of their print copies of the American State Papers and U.S. Congressional Serial Set on HathiTrust:

Lexis and Westlaw for Committee Reports

Both Lexis and Westlaw provide access to committee reports. Generally, their coverage is less comprehensive than ProQuest Congressional or HeinOnline, but they do allow you to perform more sophisticated keyword and terms and connectors searching.

Print Copies of Committee Reports

Finally, you can obtain print committee reports in the library's print copies of the American State Papers, U.S. Congressional Serial Set, and USCCAN:

More About the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

For detailed information on the history and contents of the Serial Set, see the following guides: