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Social Welfare 220: Introduction to Social Welfare Policy: Policy - FED

Finding Laws and Congressional Material

Congressional Publications contains congressional documents (hearings, committee prints, documents, and legislative histories) and also presidential documents (such as executive orders) which are searchable through this fulltext database. CRS Research Reports are particularly helpful for overviews of federal policies on an array of topics.

 Nexis Uni (formerly LexisNexis Academic)Fulltext searchable database of law reviews, cases and statutes -- both federal and state.

Quorum Track current and past legislation within the U.S. Congress and every state's legislature. To use it, you need to set up a free account with your UC Berkeley email. This database is designed for lobbyists, but is a really valuable tool for activists and policy analysts as well!

Finding Federal Legislative History by Topic

Deselect everything except Legislative Histories

Nexis Uni

Nexis Uni (formerly Lexis Nexis) lets you search across -- and then limit by -- a variety of sources including law reviews, State and Federal cases, statutes, administrative regulations, and much more.

Searching Nexis Uni

  1. Use truncation (wildcard) to search different forms of the word (child* retrieves child, child's, children)
  2. Use 'proximity connectors' -- w/[number], for example (youth or adolescent or teen*) w/25 homeless*. (You can also use w/s for within sentence, or w/p for within paragraph but you can't also combine these with the number of words.)
  3. Use the filters on the left to restrict to jurisdiction, time period, type of sources, etc.

How A Bill Becomes Law (federal)

1. Bill is Drafted

2. Introduced in House (or Senate)

3. Sent to Committee (could have hearings/prints; most die here)

6. Floor Action (House or Senate debate and vote)

7. Sent to Senate (or House)

8. Committee Action

9. Bill Called Up

10. Floor Action

11. Conference Committee Proposes compromises between the two - final version must be identical.

12. Vote on Compromise: Both houses must approve changes made by the conference committee. If approved, the bill goes to the president.

13. Presidential Action: The president may sign (approve) the bill or veto (reject) it. If approved, it becomes law.

14. Vote to Override: If the president vetoes the bill, it can still become law if two thirds of both houses vote to override the veto.

Excerpted from How a Bill Becomes Law,

Elements of a Legislative History

Bill (including different versions)

Committee Reports

Congressional Debate

Committee Hearings

Presidential Messages

Committee Prints

Congressional Documents

How to find a legislative history (federal) -- when you know the Bill or Law number

Q:  Using the Search by Number page to search for a legislative history brings back other content types, how do I set up a search to retrieve only the legislative history?

A:  Use the Advanced Search form.  On the Advanced search form you can select the document type you want to retrieve, so deselect the others and check the box for Legislative Histories. 

limit to from the advanced search form

keyword search

After selecting the document type, you can type in the keywords or the public law number in the search box. 


The law number can be formatted several ways (the PL must be in caps): 

  • 101 PL 549  (note the space between the elements)
  • PL101-549  (note there is no space between the elements)
  • P.L. 101-549  (note the space between the elements.  Also, in preliminary testing, the periods appear optional)

search using pl number