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U.S. Laws & Regulations: Debates & Secondary Sources

A general Research Help guide for students studying the American legal and regulatory systems.

Legislative Debates

Congressional "floor debates" are the consideration of a bill or resolution by Senators or Representatives before the full Senate or House. Sometimes explanations of controversial sections of a bill are included in debates. Floor debates can occur at almost any stage of a bill's progress, but usually take place after a bill has been reported out of committee.

Transcripts of debates are included in the Congressional Record. The Congressional Record includes the introduction of all bills; resolutions; amendments; debates; texts of many bills, joint/simple/concurrent resolutions that pass; Presidential messages; and treaties when debated.

Caution. Congressional debates are sometimes questioned as a source of legislative intent because they can be legally altered before they are published in the Congressional Record. Participants in debates are given transcripts of their remarks in floor debates at day's end and are then allowed to edit them. Editing includes changing, omitting, and adding statements. A Member can appear to be speaking when there was actually no speech made.

Secondary Sources