Even if a bill does not become law, the Congressional debate surrounding it and the publications which are produced, especially hearings, can be very useful sources of information for policy analysis of an issue.
Searching by Subject
You can identify Congressional materials relevant to a particular issue by searching by keyword in ProQuest Congressional. On the Basic Search screen enter search terms. You can also do keyword searching limited to the various types of Congressional publications (e.g. bills, hearings, reports, laws, etc.). You can find additional Congressional material in Hein Online.
Given both the volume of congressional activity and the fact that narrowing a search is difficult since most major public policy issues are dealt with in some way in almost every Congress, it is easier to use background sources to identify more precise search terms, i.e., specific bill, law or report numbers, specific legislators, individual witnesses at hearings, etc.
Using a Bill or Law
First, use one of the Congressional Quarterly publications to identify the titles and numbers of specific bills and/or public laws relating to an issue.
Then use these numbers or titles to search for related hearings, reports and other materials:
- Public Laws
- Use the P.L. number, e.g., P.L. 105-89, or title, e.g., Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, to search the Legislative Histories section of ProQuest Congressional (choose "CIS Index" from the main menu) or Hein Online. A legislative history provides a list of all Congressional publications associated with the debate and passage of a public law. Please note: Legislative histories are available for laws passed from 1970 onwards; those starting in 1984 are more complete.
- If a bill did not become law, use the bill number, e.g., S. 254, or title, e.g. Violent and Repeat Juvenile Offender Accountability and Rehabilitation Act of 1999, to search for a bill tracking report on ProQuest Congressional (choose "Bills" from the main menu). A bill tracking report provides a summary of the bill and all Congressional activity associated with it as well as a list of the related publications. Please note: Bill tracking reports are available for bills introduced in the 101st Congress or later (1989 or later). You can also check Hein Online for information about bills.
Senators Boxer and Feinstein at a Million Mom march, 2000 (Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain)