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US Legislative Materials & Histories: Debates

This guide is designed to help you find federal legislative documents in the Law Library, in the Graduate Library, and through online resources


Generally after a bill has been reported out of committee, members of Congress will consider the bill and any proposed amendments. These Congressional floor debates are contained in the Congressional Record and its predecessors. Supposedly a "verbatim" transcript, the remarks made are subject to revision before publication. The Law Library has a complete collection of these in paper and fiche.

Annals of Congress (1789-1824) (storage, CONST. CONV.) Register of Debates (1824-1837) [spine title: Congressional Debates] (storage, CONST. CONV.) and Congressional Globe (1833-1873) (FED COLL, S-2W)

Annals of Congress and Register of Debates are in storage (storage, CONST. CONV.); a storage pull may be requested at the Circulation Desk.

The following titles are available digitally via the Library of Congress' A Century of American Lawmaking web site:

  • Journals of the Continental Congress (1774-93)
  • Annals of Congress (1789-1824)
  • Register of Debates (1824-37)
  • Congressional Globe (1833-73)
  • Congressional Record (1873-75 only)

Congressional Record 1873 – present.  Available electronically through:

NOTE: The daily and permanent editions of the Congressional Record have different pagination systems, and there is no concordance available to translate a daily edition citation into a permanent edition citation. See the handout on the Congressional Record available at the reference desk for more information on how to get a permanent edition citation if you only have a daily edition citation.

The Congressional Record is published daily during sessions of Congress. An index is issued every ten days and cumulated annually. Access is by subject, names of legislators and titles of legislation. The index also contains a status table called "History of Bills and Resolutions" arranged by bill number.

The "Daily Digest," a summary of each day's proceedings, began publication in 1947. It is included in each daily issue of the Congressional Record and published as a separate volume at the end of the session.

The Daily Congressional Records are cumulated into annual bound volumes. These volumes are considered to be the authoritative versions of the Congressional Record, often containing additional material submitted after the day of debate, or excluding material printed in the daily version that congressional members have since withdrawn.

Finding Materials

Debates dating from:

    • Last 4 or 5 years - Congressional Record Daily Edition in the Law Library; paper (unbound).  Look in paper indexes.
    • Last 5 or 6 years - Congressional Record Daily Edition in Grad Library Docs Center; paper.  Look in paper indexes shelved directly after this set.
    • 1789-current - online through Proquest Congressional
    • 1994-current - GovInfo
    • 1899-current - (for roll call votes, click on "Roll Call Votes" under "Recent." For debate text, click on "Congressional Record" above the search bar).
    • 1873 to Present (43rd Congress, 1st Session to Present) - Congressional Record in Law Library; paper and  fiche. Use annual indexes to search by speaker or by topic.  See handout at Reference Desk on daily edition v. permanent edition.  Also in Congressional Recrd in Grad Library; paper and  film (1873 - three to four Congresses before the present). Unbound issues for last five or six years are in back room of the Docs Center. Note: Grad Serials is currently many years behind receiving this film.
    • 1833 - 1873 (23rd Congress, 1st Session - 42nd, 2nd Session) - Congressional Globe in Law Library and Grad Library; paper.  Indexes are located at the front of each volume; appendix volumes have their own indexes to the appendix.
    • 1824 - 1837 - Register of Debates in Law Library and  Grad Library; paper. Request storage pull from the Circulation Desk. Spine title: Congressional Debates. (Alternate title: Abridgment of the Debates of Congress.)
    • 1789 - 1856 - Abridgment of the Debates of Congress, from 1789 to 1856 in Buhr; paper.  Is currently shelved in "Preservation" at the Grad Library.
    • 1789 - 1824  (1st - 18th Congress, 1st Session) - Annals of Congress in Law Library and Grad Library; paper. In Law Library, request storage pull from the Circulation Desk. (Alternate title: Abridgement of the Debates of Congress.) In the Grad Library, you will need the date and house of Congress.
    • 1774 - 1789  (pre-United States Congress) - Journals of the Continental Congress online via Google Books. Also in Grad Library; paper. Use the Index shelved with this set.
    • Links to additional Internet Resources can be found on the Internet Resources tab and on the Law Library’s Electronic Resources List.

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