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Federal Legislative History: Interpreting Legislative History

Wait, Now I Actually Have to Read This?!

Often lawyers hope legislative histories will provide neat statement of how Congress meant for the law to apply on their issue. 

However, most legislative histories are long, messy compilations of months or years of amendment and debate by people with conflicting interests.

This means:

  • Different legislators and interest groups may have said different things about your issue.
  • Congress may never have thought about your issue at all.
  • Even if Congress did make a neat statement on your issue, you may need to dig through thousands of pages of material to find it.

Finding your legislative history is only the beginning.

Online Guides to Interpreting Legislative History

Treatises on Interpreting Legislative History