This post is coauthored by Barbara Bavis and Robert Brammer, senior legal reference specialists.
To continue our Beginner’s Guide series on legislative history documents, we next turn to congressional committee reports. The reports created by the committees of the United States House of Representatives and United States Senate are important sources for determining legislative intent, better understanding the “cultural history” of a piece of legislation, or locating a committee’s findings on an investigation into a given subject. United States Senate Executive Reports, which concern treaties and reports related to executive nominations, will be the subject of a future post.
Free Online Resources
Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation – The Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation website, made available by the Library of Congress, contains the American State Papers collection, which covers U.S. congressional documents from 1789-1838. Century also contains select portions of the United States Serial Set from 1817 to 1917.
Congress.gov – Select committee reports are available on Congress.gov from 1995 to the present. Committee reports can be found on the committee reports landing page. This page allows you to locate reports by either searching by citations or by using the facets menu on the left-hand side of the screen to browse for a report. If you have a citation to a bill, and you would like to search for a committee report that corresponds to that legislation, you can choose “all legislation” from the drop-down menu, search for the bill’s citation, choose a result, click on the actions tab, and choose “all actions” on the left. The list of actions will provide a link to the committee report.
Congress.gov also provides access to the Congressional Record dating back to 1995. The Congressional Record is of interest because it contains conference reports, which are reports of conferees that attempt to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of a bill. Conference reports are typically published in the Congressional Record the day after they are filed. Conference reports also appear in the aforementioned list of legislative actions underneath a bill’s legislative action tab.
Federal Digital System (FDSys) – The Government Publishing Office‘s FDSys website contains select committee reports dating back to 1995. FDSys also provides access to the Congressional Record dating back to 1994.
HathiTrust – If you have a citation to a report number or to the United States Serial Set, you may be able to find the report in HathiTrust. After performing a search, you may want to narrow your results on the facets menu on the left by using the author and date facet.
Internet Archive – The Internet Archive is another source for committee reports. Researchers may be best served by using the advanced search to search for a report, specifically by filling in a citation into the “any field” box, report title into the “title” box, and/or a committee title into the “creator” box. For example, if you were searching for a Senate Committee on Appropriations report, you would enter “United States. Congress. Senate. Committee on Appropriations” in the creator box.
Many of the online databases above provide select access to committee reports in resources such as the Serial Set. For more complete access, use these resources at your local Federal Depository Library.
American State Papers and the United States Congressional Serial Set – The American State Papers and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set contain a variety of federal government information, including committee reports, in print and on microfiche. The American State Papers cover the years 1789-1838. The U.S. Congressional Serial Set was first published in 1817, and provides coverage up to the present day. The U.S. Congressional Serial Set has a variety of access points, including subject, keyword, name, reported bill number indexes, and a sequential list of titles and reference information for documents, including committee reports, for each session of Congress.
Congressional Record – Conference Reports are usually made available in the Congressional Record the day after they are filed. For information on how to access the Congressional Record and its predecessors in print, please see our Beginner’s Guide on the subject.
ProQuest Congressional – ProQuest Congressional is a subscription resource that provides access to a variety of congressional publications, including committee reports. On the advanced search screen, you can focus your search to reports by unchecking all of the other document types. You can also click on the “legislative and executive publications” menu at the top and select “search by number” and choose “bibliographic citation” to search by a citation, such as a report number or Serial Set volume number.
ProQuest Legislative Insight – ProQuest Legislative Insight is a subscription resource that provides access to compiled legislative histories. Legislative Insight is typically used by entering a citation to an enacted bill, public law number, or U.S. Statute at Large citation. If a compiled legislative history is available, the results screen will provide a list of all legislative history documents associated with that legislation, including committee reports.
U.S. Congressional Serial Set from Readex – The Readex subscription database offers a variety of ways to search the Serial Set dating from 1817 to 1982. Users can search for reports by citation, title, associated bill number, geographic location, associated committee, etc. Full-text access is offered in PDF and JPEG formats.
HeinOnline – HeinOnline does not offer full access to the Serial Set, but does offer select access to committee reports through its U.S. Federal Legislative History Library. If you do not have the citation to the report, you will need to browse the collection by public law number to locate the reports associated with that law. Note that you can also locate conference reports in the Congressional Record in Hein’s U.S. Congressional Documents Library.
As is true with many of the legislative history resources we discuss, the best place to find these items is in a federal depository library near you. As noted on the Federal Depository Library Program website, “the U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) through the Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) distributes certain classes of Government documents free of cost to designated libraries throughout the United States and its territories. These libraries are known as Federal depository libraries.” To find your closest federal depository library, simply visit the website linked above, or use the FDLP advanced search.
We hope this helps you with your congressional committee reports research. If you have any questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.