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SW 525: Social Welfare Policy: History of Social and Economic Justice (UNH Durham)

Congressional Publications

Committee reports are probably the most useful. They often provide

  • an overview
  • a more detailed descriptions of the bill (proposed legislation)
  • a summary of the discussions about its provisions

Hearings may also be useful as they

  • will provide the direct testimony of experts or other interested parties supporting or opposing the bill
  • may also be held to investigate a problem area before any legislation is developed

Congressional Publications Database

Tips for this database

  • Limit search to Legislative Histories (left side under Document Types: uncheck "Select all" then check Legislative Histories)
  • If possible, search by Public Law number - for example, P.L. 106-169 - for most specific result. Otherwise search by keywords from the title of the legislation or the policy topic and select the appropriate Congress or years.
  • If you don't know the public law number, Google it!

Within the legislative history, useful items include

  • Retrieve Bill Profile Report link
  • Summary of provisions
  • Reports
  • Hearings (testimony of interested parties; one place to look for information on values)

For full text of reports and/or hearings, click on CIS Number link to go to the report or hearing entry, then go to Links To section to retrieve the committee report or the available transcripts.

In the report(s), look for sections that may discuss purpose of the legislation, background and/or need for legislation, explanation of (significant) provisions, etc.

Hearings may include prepared statements and/or question-and-answer sessions

Supreme Court Hearings Database

Congressional Research Services Reports

Government Accountability Office (GAO)


When searching, consider using quotation marks to identify key phrases; for example, "foster care"

Results can be sorted by relevance or date: new to old

When mousing over entries in the search results list, hover over the arrow to see a brief abstract and links to full text

How a Bill Becomes Law

Public Laws

Public laws affect the general public or classes of citizens. Public laws are numbered sequentially within each Congress; for example, P.L. 106-169 is the 169th public law passed in the 106th Congress.

Googling the title of the law (AKA act) is one way to identify the P.L. number of a law.