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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Legislative History (federal & state): Debates

A guide to finding state and federal legislative documents and performing legislative history research.

What's a debate?

Congressional Record:  Proceedings and Debates of the U.S. Congress

The Congressional Record is a substantially verbatim account of remarks made during the proceedings of the House and Senate. It has been published by the Government Printing Office (GPO) since 1873.  Before 1873, records of congressional proceedings were kept under various titles: Annals of CongressRegister of Debates and Congressional Globe

Official Reporters and Member offices edit and add text following the proceedings, after which the text of amendments, conference reports, and some bills and resolutions are added. Other materials such as lists of added cosponsors, notices of messages from the President and the other chamber; lists of Presidential nominations; and Résumés of Congressional Activity are also included.

GPO publishes new issues of the Congressional Record daily and transmits each new issue to the Library of Congress overnight. A new issue becomes available on the following morning.


News: House floor today

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News: Senate floor today

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News: Daily Digest

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Finding Debates by Date

Know what debate you're looking for?

The Congressional Record is the official record of the proceedings and debates of the United States Congress. It is published daily when Congress is in session. At the back of each daily issue is the "Daily Digest," which summarizes the day's floor and committee activities.

Source Document format Coverage
FDSys PDF or Text (Text only for 1994) 104th Congress to present
THOMAS HTML (with link to PDF from FDSys) 101st Congress to present
American Memory GIFF or TIFF images 1st Congress to 43rd Congress (Title varies. See explanation, below)
HeinOnline PDF



Print: print 1873-1988 (collection spread across multiple libraries, ask a librarian for help)
Microform microfiche 1833-2002

Congressional Record - daily edition and permanent edition

The bound edition of the Congressional Record refers to the government's official publication, also referred to as the permanent edition. It has slight changes and revision from the indiviual daily edition issues.

The Bluebook requires that you cite to the bound edition except where the material being cited is only available in the daily edition. R 13.5. For more information on Bluebook citation, check out the law library's Bluebook guide.

Publication of debates prior to Congressional Record

Prior to 1873, debates were recorded in:

  • Congressional Globe (1833-1873)
  • Register of Debates in Congress (1824-1837)
  • Annals of Congress (1789-1824)

For a detailed history of the Congressional Record and its predecessors, see the LLSDC Legislative Sourcebook