Researchers of federal legislative histories take note–HeinOnline has added another piece of the legislative history puzzle to its database, hundreds of U.S. Congressional committee prints. Contained within HeinOnline’s larger U.S. Congressional Documents collection, this subcollection contains over 850 titles and more than 200,000 pages. (Selected committee prints are also available online from the U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO)’s FDsys site.)
Among legislative history research materials, committee prints are lesser known, but can still be useful for statutory interpretation by trying to decipher legislative intent. As FDsys explains, committee prints can contain “draft reports and bills, directories, statistical materials, investigative reports, historical reports, situational studies, confidential staff reports, hearings, and legislative analyses.” In other words, committee prints differ from other legislative history materials because they are made to aid committee members in their work behind the scenes. Committee prints are often not announced for public distribution and don’t exist for the same public reporting function as committee reports and the like. The National Archives puts it more colorfully–“most prints became ‘fugitive’ documents as soon as they were published.”
Because Congress likes to make laws that bind everyone but themselves, procedures for publishing these prints differ by committee. Unfortunately for legislative history researchers, the formatting is not uniform nor is numbering system. (The Senate has a system for numbering its Committee Prints, but the House does not.) Fortunately, HeinOnline’s addition of committee prints provides another avenue for searching and locating the ones on point for legislative history research.
For more assistance with legislative history research generally, please see Tarlton’s Federal Legislative History research guide.