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Federal Legislative History: Committees (Ref. # 2, 4, 6)

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Generally, follow Rule 13.4 in the 20th ed. of The Bluebook.

For example, in Bills, we tracked Pub. L. 108-447.  On Nov. 20, 2004, House Report 108-792, a Conference Committee Report for H.R. 4818, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2005, was reported.  Division E, b mentions the amendment to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  We would cite this as:

H.R. Rep. No. 108-792, Div. E, b (2004) (Conf. Rep.).

Note here that online resources often will cite this as H. Rpt. 108-792.  The abbreviation is incorrect for a Bluebook citation.  Other information is also needed.

Generally, follow Rule 13.4(c).

For example, the House Committee on the Budget had its staff prepare an Appropriations Update, Vol. 4, No. 9: Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for FY2005--H.R. 4818.  This document was written by Tiffany R. Blair.  We would cite this as:

Staff of H. Comm. on the Budget, 108th Cong., Appropriations Update, Vol. 4, No. 9: Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill for FY2005-H.R. 4818 (Comm. Print 2004 by Tiffany R. Blair).

Committee Reports

Committee Reports

Flowchart reference numbers 4 and 6.

  • Committee reports are particularly useful documents for legislative history research.
  • They often descrive the purpose of the legislation and summarize or explain specific provisions.
  • The report will also give details on the committee's actions, understandings, and conclusions about the legislation.
  • Identified as either H. Rep., H. Rept., H. Rp., H. Rpt., S. Rep., S. Rept., S. Rp., S. Rpt.

Committee Reports

Committee Reports

Flowchart reference numbers 4 and 6.

What Are Committee Reports?

Congress divides its work among over two hundred committees, each of which issues regular reports on its activities.

After a bill is introduced on the House or Senate floor, it is referred to the committee of jurisdiction (i.e., the committee charged with reviewing measures in the area of law or policy with which the bill is concerned). The committee of referral most often sends the measure to its specialized subcommittee(s) for study, hearings, revisions and approval.


For most bills, the committee or subcommittee fails to take further action on the referred bill, effectively "killing" the measure at this point. (Occasionally, a committee will report a measure "unfavorably," with explicit recommendations against its passage, or it will report a bill "without recommendation," which has the same effect as an unfavorable report.)


If the bill passes the subcommittee with a favorable vote, it is sent back to the full committee for further consideration, hearings, amendment and vote. If a committee votes out or "reports favorably" a bill back to the House or Senate, it is then "calendared" or scheduled for floor debate and vote in the full chamber. Each measure sent to the full chamber by the committee with reporting responsibility is accompanied by a committee report on the legislation.


Committee reports are uniquely identified by the following pieces of information: the numbers of the Congress and session, the chamber (House or Senate), the report number, the bill or resolution number being reported on, the committee, title and date.


The committee's report summarizes the purpose and scope of a bill, reasons for its approval sets forth the committee's findings and recommendations, including a statement estimating the costs (or revenues) resulting from its potential enactment for the current fiscal year and five successive fiscal years. All changes in existing law must be indicated in the report, and the text of laws being repealed must be indicated. The courts, legislative analysts and historians depend on committee reports to reveal the "legislative intent" of the committee in recommending the measure. 

Occasionally, committee reports are not linked to a certain bill or piece of legislation but rather serve as background on a public policy issue. These reports are generated by committee staff in their oversight role.

Finding Committee Documents

  • For measures passed after 1990, use, Westlaw or Lexis Advance.
  • For measures passed before 1990, use Congressional (ProQuest) and/or Newsbank Readex’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set.
  • For measures passed between 1817-1980, use Newsbank Readex’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

It is possible that the information you require is only available on microfiche.

Committee Prints

Committee Prints

Flowchart reference number 2.

What are Committee Prints?

Congressional Committee Prints are publications issued by Congressional Committees that include topics related to their legislative or research activities, as well as other matters such as memorial tributes. The prints are an excellent resource for statistical and historical information, and for legislative analysis. The subjects of the Committee Prints vary greatly due to the different concerns and actions of each committee. Some basic categories of Congressional Committee Prints are: draft reports and bills, directories, statistical materials, investigative reports, historical reports, situational studies, confidential staff reports, hearings, and legislative analyses.

The prints are generally viewed as internal background information publications and often are not announced for public distribution. Procedures for the printing and publication of these prints differ with each committee, and formats are inconsistent. Few prints have been allocated serial numbers, but most have not. The individual committee prints are not a part of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, because those documents come from the Senate and the House of Representatives as a whole.


Committee prints do not have a consistent numbering system or publication history, the reason being that these papers are printed copies of committee members' work. The Senate has a numbering system for its committee prints, but the House does not (e.g. "S. Prt. 108-3").