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Federal Congressional Procedure & Legislative History

A guide to researching the procedure of the United State Congress and the legislative history of federal laws.

Congressional Record

The Congressional Record contains a substantially verbatim account of the proceedings and debate of Congress, as well as extensive inserted materials and communications from the President and executive agencies. Because the Record contains actual statements by legislators, it may be useful in determining Congressional intent in passing a bill.

There are two editions of the Record: a daily one and a bound, permanent one. The daily edition reports each day’s proceedings in Congress and is published on the succeeding day. At the end of each session of Congress, all of the daily editions are collected, re-paginated, and re-indexed into a permanent, bound edition. Due to the repagination process, a citation to the daily Record does not work with the bound Record, nor does the reverse work.

The final two parts of the bound Congressional Record of each session are an index containing a history of bills and resolutions and a compilation of Daily Digests for the session.

Predecessors to the Congressional Record

The Congressional Record began publication in 1873.  There were several predecessors including:

Annals of Congress: 1789-1824
Register of Debates in Congress: 1824-1837
The Congressional Globe: 1833-1873

C-SPAN

C-SPAN, an acronym for Cable-Satellite Public Affairs Network, is a cable television network that offers coverage of federal government proceedings and other public affairs programming.