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Congressional Documents: Cong.Debate


Congressional debate on a bill often occurs after the committee reports the bill back to the House or Senate. All members can debate the merits of the bill, and at some point a vote will be taken. Frequently, each chamber will have its own version of a bill, and both must agree on one version for the bill to pass. Bills may go back and forth between the chambers, or a conference committee of both House and Senate members may be appointed to reach agreement.

Two versions of the Congressional Record are currently published:

The Daily Congressional Record is printed the night after debate occurs and is on the desks of members of Congress the next morning in paper or digital form.

The Bound Congressional Record is the official archival version. It includes the appendix, bill summaries, any material that a member wants "read in" even though not said on the floor of the house, and is numbered differently from the Daily Edition. In 1984 the Government Publishing Office ceased sending the Bound CR to selective depositories like Bowdoin. We have relied on HeinOnline for access to the Bound Congressional Record since then. HeinOnline is our most comprehensive source for finding Congressional debate, both Daily CR and Bound CR from all years. Hein provides search tips for searching congressional documents.

As you can see from the table to the right, congressional debates were published under several different names during the nineteenth century. Bowdoin Library holds all of the congressional debate titles from 1789 to 1984 in paper, as well as 1789-present digitally. The Annals of Congress and the Register of Debate were summarized from newspaper accounts. Not until the invention of shorthand in the mid 19th century did the Congressional Record become a verbatim record of debate. All editions have indexes. After 1900 each volume of the Congressional Record is made up of House debate, Senate debate, extension of remarks and a daily digest of activities. At the end of each year, there is an index and a list of bill and resolution summaries.

Tips for searching the Congressional Record:

Although the index is a subject and name index, names of members of Congress are better represented than subject words, so searching the name of a member who had a special focus on your subject is more effective than keyword searching. Be aware that the index is in the front of pre-1900 volumes. Knowing a year, session of Congress or the specific date of discussion on a bill can make a search more efficient in either the print version or the HeinOnline version of the Congressional Record.

At the back of each daily issue is the Daily Digest, which summarizes the day's floor and committee activities and serves as a table of contents for each issue. The House and Senate sections contain proceedings for the separate chambers of Congress. Finally, the Extension of Remarks includes tributes, statements, and other information that supplements statements made on the Congressional floor.

For more detail on the history and characteristics of the Congressional Record, please see What is the Congressional Record from ProQuest. Also see the excellent article An Overview of the Congressional Record and its Predecessor Publications by Richard McKinney, Assistant Law Librarian for the Federal Reserve Board Law Library.

Congressional Debate

To find floor debate on a particular bill or topic, it is best to first use ProQuest Congressional where you will find Congressional Record dates and page numbers. If the full text is not available in ProQuest Congressional then use the date and page number to find the debate in HeinOnline.

In ProQuest Congressional, search by member of Congress or topic and limit to Congressional Record. An even better way is to search by bill number and then use the bill tracking feature.

The History of Bills and Resolutions also is a good place to find debate on a particular bill. It is found in HeinOnline within the very last index of each session.  Drill your way down by Congress, session, find the final index of the session-within that index will be the History for the session. Bills will be listed numerically with references to Congressional Record date and page.

(see explanation to the left of the difference between the daily and bound CR)






The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States (a.k.a. Annals of Congress 1st-18th 1789-1824 paper Govt Doc LC 4.5: and Govt Doc X 10:
1st-18th 1789-1824 online HeinOnline
1st-18th 1789-1824 online A Century of Lawmaking
Register of Debates in Congress 19th-24th 1825-1837 paper Govt Doc X 19-X 25:
18th-25th 1824-1837 online HeinOnline
18th-25th 1823-1839 online A Century of Lawmaking
Congressional Globe 23rd-42nd 1838-1873 paper Govt Doc X 25-X 42:
23rd-42nd 1833-1873 online HeinOnline
23rd-42nd 1833-1873 online A Century of Lawmaking
Congressional Record (daily)
96th- 1980- online HeinOnline > U.S. Congressional Documents > Congressional Record > Congressional Record Daily Best Bet
99th- 1985- online ProQuest Congressional
103rd, 2nd session Aug-Dec 1994 paper Govt Doc X 99-X 103:
(selected CR Index issues for June 1993-1994 only.)
103rd, 2nd sess.- 1994- online search or browse the Congressional Record (daily ed.) in govinfo
search or browse the Congressional Record Index to the daily ed. in govinfo
104th- 1995- online
Congressional Record (bound)

(see explanation to the left of the difference between the daily and bound CR)
42nd-98th* 1873-1984* paper Govt Doc X 42:- Best Bet
43rd- 1873- online HeinOnline > U.S. Congressional Documents > Congressional Record > Congressional Record Best Bet
43rd-44th 1873-1877 online A Century of Lawmaking
43rd-107th, 1st sess.;
109th-110th, 1st sess.
online search or browse Congressional Record (Bound Edition) in govinfo. ("Searches in govinfo over the Congressional Record (Bound Edition) from 1999 forward will not search over other sections which are part of the official printed edition. These include the History of Bills, the compilation of Daily Digests, the resume of all business transacted during the entire Congress, and the subject index to the Bound Edition." govinfo)
85th-103rd 1957- online

* Since 1985, selective Federal Depository Libraries such as H-L Library do not receive the bound edition of the Congressional Record.

Internet Archive, HathiTrust, and Google Books may also include these documents. However, these databases may not be comprehensive.

C-SPAN's Congressional Chronicle includes proceedings of the House since March 1979 and of the Senate since June 1986.

Résumé of Congressional Activity, 1947-present (a part of the Congressional Record)

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