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When a bill is introduced into Congress, it is assigned to a committee, and usually to a subcommittee. The subcommittee members may hold public hearings at which invited witnesses may testify.
Hearings are not strong evidence of legislative intent because they represent the opportunity taken by interested parties to express their views and suggest changes to proposed legislation. But because hearings occur early in the legislative process, they can be useful in helping determine the general purpose of the bill.
Hearings may be held for purposes other than to consider pending legislation. For example, hearings may be held to explore specific topics, investigate the need for legislation, evaluate the efficiency of government operations, or to confirm Presidential nominations.
The law library has all published hearings since 1935. Most hearings are on microfiche. At present, the library routinely collects only hearings from the House and Senate Judiciary Committees and a half dozen other committees in paper format. For hearings from 1935 through 1980 use the CIS microfiche. From 1980 to date the hearings may be found in either the Superintendent of Documents stacks or in microfiche. Some selected hearings, regardless of publication date, have been cataloged and shelved in the library's general collections.
To find hearings, first search BEN. Many, but not all, hearings are listed by title in the online catalog. A word search for the keyword "hearing*" and principal words from the committee name may be most successful.
If the hearing is not located through BEN, use the CIS Annual to identify all hearings published since 1970. The CIS Annual is also found on LexisNexis in the legis library, cislh file. For hearings published between 1833 and 1969, use the CIS Index to U.S. Congressional Committee Hearings. To identify hearings that were not published, use the following indexes: CIS Index to Unpublished U.S. Senate Committee Hearings 1823-1964 and the CIS Index to Unpublished U.S. House of Representative Committee Hearings 1833-1946. Terms that can be searched in these indexes include witness names, names of subcommittees, subjects, and bill numbers.
Another source that can be used to identify hearings is the Catalog of United States Government Publications which is a comprehensive index to all federal documents published since 1976.
Hearings prior to 1976 can be identified through the Monthly Catalog of United States Government Publications or the CIS Index (1970 - )or the CIS US Congressional Committee Hearings Index. Hearings on microfiche from 1935 through 1980 are filed by their CIS index number. Hearings since 1980, whether in microfiche or in paper format, are filed by the Superintendent of Documents (SuDocs) number beginning Y 4. The CIS indexes provide both the CIS and SuDocs numbers for identification. The Catalog provides the SuDocs number only. For an explanation of the CIS number, see the prefatory material in the CIS indexes. For an explanation of the SuDocs number, see the Research Guide Finding Federal Documents through BEN.
ProQuest Congressional, available through BEN, has selected hearings from 1824 to 1969. Hearings are available on Westlaw in ustestimony or congtmy and a few subject specific databases, such as insider-lh. Selected transcripts of hearings are on LexisNexis in the legis library, fednew, poltrn, cngtst or hearng files, and in specialized files such as firrea. A limited number of hearing transcripts may also be found in Lexis Advance. On Bloomberg Law, recent House and Senate hearing transcripts are found under the ‘Legislative & Regulatory’ tab. Selected hearings are also available in HeinOnline under the heading U.S. Congressional Documents as well as in the U.S. Federal Legislative History Library.
Full text hearings are on FDsys from 1985 to date or on individual committee websites. Supreme Court nomination hearings from 1971 to the present are found on FDsys. The C-Span video archive includes selected Congressional hearings from 1987. C-Span also offers live coverage of selected hearings.