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Zimmerman's Research Guide


Congressional Record

The Congressional Record publishes Congressional debates, many bills and joint resolutions, presidential messages and treaties. The Record also published notices saying that each bill has been introduced and that simple resolutions and concurrent resolutions have been passed. The Record began publishing in 1873.

The Congressional Record is available online from many sources including:

  • FDsys (free) - the daily edition is posted back to 1994, and the bound edition is available back to December 1998;
  • Congress.gov has the Record free back to the 104th Congress (1995-60);
  • Thomas has the Record free back to the 101st Congress (1989-90);
  • Lexis (LEGIS;RECORD) and Westlaw (CR) have the Record back to January 3, 1985;
  • Hein Online - the U.S. Congressional Documents Collection includes the bound Congressional Record back to inception) and the daily from 1980 to the present (subscription only);
  • ProQuest Congressional has the daily Record from volume 139 (99th Congress / 1985-1986) to present; the ProQuest Congressional Record Permanent Digital Collection covering 1873-1997 is sold as an add-on subscription (available through many academic and membership law library websites, including the New York Law Institute); and
  • Bloomberg Law has the Record from 1933 to the present (subscription only).

Some large law libraries have the Record in paper or microfilm going way back. To get copies, though, you have to have a cite. To get citations, see the following sections on Citations and Pagination.

Pagination: The Congressional Record has TWO pagination systems -- one for the daily edition and one for the bound. Although the content is generally the same, Congressmen can revise their remarks for the bound version. There is no cross-reference table between the pagination systems - if you don't have the page for the edition available to you, you have to figure it out.

If you subscribe, HeinOnline has a "Congressional Record Daily to Bound Locator." Otherwise, you can try looking up the agency/title/subject/date in the Congressional Record Index or do key word searches in a database. Alternatively, if you have the date the item was published, you can go the hard copy version for that date and turn pages. If you don't have the date, you may be able to look it up in the CCH Congressional Index.

Congressional Record Index: To find something in the Congressional Record, most people search one of the electronic databases, but you can also look in the Congressional Record Index to get a citation. The Congressional Record Index is published annually in hard copy. It's posted free on FDsys back to 1983. You can also search it on Lexis, either from 1970 to the present (LEGIS;CISINX) or from 1789 to 1980 (LEGIS;CISHST), which includes predecessor publications.

Locating Debates: The "Legislative Histories" section of the CIS/Index gives you cites to the debates on bills that became Public Laws. The CIS/Index is available in many large law libraries. The CIS/Index is also available on Lexis (LEGIS;CISINX) and Proquest Congressional.

More Information: For more information about the Congressional Register and its predecessors -- the Annals of Congress, the Register of Debates in Congress and the Congressional Globe -- see An Overview of the Congressional Record and its Predecessor Publications by Richard J. McKinney.

See Also
Bill Status
Federal Bills
Federal Legislative History
Government Publishing Office (GPO)
Private Laws
Public Laws

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman