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Congressional Help: House and Senate Reports

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About House and Senate Reports

House and Senate reports are the designated class of publications by which congressional committees report and make recommendations to the House or Senate as a whole. These reports concern the findings of committee hearings or the outcome of committee deliberations. They can contain discussions of legislative intent, a short history of a bill, and comparisons of current and proposed law text. Reports are assigned separate sequential numbers within each Chamber (e.g., H. Rpt. 99-1, S. Rpt. 99-1). Since 1969 (91st Congress) the assigned number has included the Congress number as an intrinsic part of the report number. The House began its numbered report series in 1819, and the Senate began its numbered report series in 1847. House and Senate reports are included in the Serial Set.

Most reports make recommendations for passage of a specific piece of legislation that the committee has considered in hearings and in private session. The legislation reported may be in the same form as introduced and considered in the hearing, it may have been amended, or it may have been extensively rewritten by the committee and reported as an amendment in the nature of a substitute or as a "clean" bill with a new number.

If a bill is simple and non-controversial, the report may be very brief, containing only the committee recommendation for passage. Often, however, the report includes a lengthy and detailed analysis of each section of the legislation. Sometimes reports contain a summary of issues brought out in the hearings or a history of the problem the legislation is intended to address. Frequently, reports contain additional, minority, or supplemental views of individual committee members.

A separate type of legislative report results when the House and Senate pass versions of a bill that have substantial or controversial differences, and a decision is made to go to conference. In that case, differences between the House and Senate versions are reconciled by a conference committee made up of delegates or "managers" representing both political parties. When the conferees reach agreement, they issue their recommendations in a conference report that explains provision-by-provision how the differences were resolved or, in some cases, which provisions remain in disagreement.

Committees also may issue reports that are not on specific legislation. These reports may summarize the findings of investigatory or oversight hearings, field trips, or study panel investigations. Many committees also issue annual or biennial activity reports summarizing their legislative and oversight activities.

Reports are published on a timely basis.

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