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Federal Legislation

Legislative Process

Congressional Committee Publications

Congressional Committee Publications are important because most action and lobbying takes place in committees. Most committee information is published, but there may be a time lag of 6 months to 2 years on hearings.The database, Congressional Publications, provides Committee Prints from 1817 to present.


Bills are introduced by a member of the Senate or the House of Representatives. The bill is assigned a unique identifying number, which it retains through both sessions of Congress. A House of Representatives bill is designated "H.R. ____"; a Senate bill is identified as "S.___".

Hearings and Testimony

Each bill is assigned to the appropriate committee in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Hearings give a wealth of information, often in question-and-answer format:

  • testimony on proposed legislation
  • testimony on nominations
  • testimony on investigations
  • testimony on appropriations

The people who testify include lobbyists, members of the Executive Branch, and outside experts.

Printed hearings may be searched in Milner's catalog and are located in the Documents Stacks on Floor 4. [The catalog also points to electronic versions of the text.] The database, Congressional Publications, provides congressional testimony from 1988 to present. Many hearing are also available fulltext through HeinOnline Academic.

House Committee on Ways and Means has jurisdiction over all taxation, tariffs and other revenue-raising measures, as well as a number of other programs including: Social Security, Medicare, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and unemployment benefits. The House and Ways Committee authors the Green Book. It provides background material and data for these programs.


Committee Prints

Committee Prints are another useful source. They are research reports written FOR the Committee.

Selected Committee Prints can be found in the Documents Stacks on Floor 4. The database, Congressional Publications, provides indexing for Committee Prints from 1817 to present.


Reports are recommendations written BY the committee for the House or Senate. A committee report describes the purpose and scope of the bill, explains the committee amendments, indicates any proposed changes in existing laws, and includes the texts of communications from departmental officials whose views on the legislation may have been solicited. Committee reports are the most persuasive legislative history sources. Committee reports may give instructions on how government agencies should interpret and enforce the law.

Committee Reports can be found on paper in the Documents Stacks on Floor 4. The database, Congressional Publications, indexes reports from 1789 to present.  Historic reports are digitized in the Serial Set Collection dating from 1789-1969.

Floor Debates

A bill is sent to the floor for debate and a vote. The debates appear in the Congressional Record.  Statements in the Congressional Record can help to illustrate the legislative intent particularly explanations given by sponsors of floor amendments.

Printed volumes of the Congressional Record (and its antecedents) are located in the Documents Stacks on Floor 4. The database, HeinOnline Academic, provides full text access from 1789 to present.

State of Illinois Legislation

Subject Guide

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Angela Bonnell
Milner Library, Office #417
309 438-2354