Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Federal Legislative History Research

A how to guide for pinpointing congressional documents to help determine legislative intent

What is a Conference Committee Markup Session?

Often, different versions of the same bill will rise through both chambers. The bicameralism requirement necessitates that both the House and the Senate agree upon the same bill version. When dealing with complex, different bill versions, Congress will sometimes create a conference committee in which a group of leaders from each chamber will work together to create a new version of the bill that functions as a compromise of all the prior versions.

Documents Produced During Conference Committee Markup Session

Conference report: Conference reports, much like committee reports, can be extremely useful in determining legislative intent. Conference reports are generated during the conference committee markup session and generally include a detailed, line-by-line analysis of the bill.

  • Because Congress creates conference reports late in the publication process, they can be especially useful in determining legislative intent about final language decisions for bills.
  • Conference reports are issued as House Reports, with the committee as the Committee of Conference. You will find that often, databases store conference reports in the same location as committee reports.

New bill drafts: If a conference committee decides to create an entirely new bill, that bill draft often retains language the committee cherry-picked from the different bills. Compare the differences between the bill versions for a better understanding of congressional intent.

Locating Conference Committee Documents

Conference reports:

  • Congress.gov: 1995 to the present
    • Locate the bill in Congress.gov > select “actions” from the navigation bar > filter by “all actions” > if a conference report exists, it will be labeled “Conference report filed with a link to the report”
  • Govinfo.gov: 1995 to the present
    • Govinfo.gov Advanced Search > Refine by Collection “Committee Reports”

New bill drafts:

  • Congress.gov: provides the full text of bills from 1989 to the present and metadata from 1973 to the present
    • Locate the bill in congress.gov > select “text” from the navigation bar > use the dropdown menu to download the different bill versions.
    • Congress.gov does not have a compare documents feature. To set up a side-by-side comparison, try using the Word or Adobe redlining features.