Federal Research: Additional Information

The nature of federal legislative history research is potentially quite expansive. Frequently other bills "feed" into the final measure and each have their own historical trails. Researching the right "feeder" bill is essential, and can take many hours to identify and research fully. Also, the era involved will affect the availability and location of materials.

Research is undertaken to identify and obtain the key records. While it is impossible to guarantee exhaustive coverage at any point because of the sheer volume of materials that are often available, we can usually identify the critical documentation within eight hours per public law. Occasionally, however, given the breadth of available documentation, our clients wish us to take our research further. In such cases, we specify the areas that might benefit from additional research in advance, and estimate, as far as possible, additional time needs.

Key elements of our research:

Time consuming research reigned in
Given the expansive and complex nature of federal public law research, it is important to limit the scope of research early on. Knowing the particular terms of interest and the context of concern allows us to target the most productive research trails. Questions may include: (1) What is the research goal? For example: (a) Are you hoping that the history supports a plain reading of the statute? (b) Do you divine another meaning that is not apparent from a plain reading? (c) Is there ambiguity that you wish to shed light on? (d) Do you simply want to know the circumstances that triggered adoption of the terms of interest? (2) What problem triggers the need for this research? All such information is held confidential by LRI.

Key research trails followed and documents sought
We look for the following records:

    • The primary bill that first proposed the terms of interest (frequently a failed predecessor or concurrent bill). Related excerpts from the bill versions, committee reports, hearing transcripts and Congressional Record.
    • Similar, relevant materials on the final bill, including the President’s signing message if any.

Note: In the interest of saving time we may error on the side of being over inclusive and provide complete records rather than prescreening them for specific discussion on the terms of interest. Sometimes word-searchable scanning permits targeted research. However, this digital process is time consuming and is not available for all records.