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Treaties and Conventions: U.S. Legislative History

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The legislative history of treaties

Use U.S. legislative history sources to find background on Congressional intent in ratification of the treaty, declarations and reservations, and other information related to the treaty’s history and background.

Senate Print 106-71: Treaties and Other International Agreements: The Role of the United States Senate on International and US law on treaties and the US treaty process

CRS Report RL32528: International Law and Agreements: Their Effect Upon U.S. Law (2013) includes the steps in the making of a treaty or executive agreement

Congress.gov  lists all legislative actions associated with U.S. treaties, including dates and citations for hearings and Executive Reports, and the resolution of advice and consent.

Executive Reports

  • Report of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recommending ratification, may include full text of the treaty, analysis of select treaty articles. The Executive Report includes purpose, background and history of the treaty and whether implementing legislation is needed. It may include committee comments, reservations, understandings, and declarations.
  • Print: discoverE by title, Serial Set, Y 1.1/6:
  • Online:  Congress.govFDsys and Proquest Congressional. FDsys also has committee prints and other reports of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Implementing legislation

  • Not all treaties require implementing legislation, and it may not be clear if there is any.
  • Find legislation in the U.S. Code and Statutes at Large.
  • Annotated Codes (USCA, USCS) offer annotations of cases and secondary sources on treaties with implementing legislation.
  • See the code index for some treaty titles or subjects under Convention, Treaty, or International Agreement.
  • In USCA on Westlaw, search the USCA Index for treaty references, search treaty titles in Popular Names with "implementation act" and the treaty name, and search the code text and notes for references to the treaty.
  • In USCS volumes, use the International Agreements volume to find headings for Implementing Legislation with major treaties.  Other treaties may be referenced in the annotations for related or implementing legislation. In Lexis, find implementing and related legislation with USCS International Conventions, or search in the USCS by treaty name for related legislation.

Floor Debates

  • Congressional Record:  transcript of debates
  • Print:  X1.1/A and X 1.1 in USDOCS
  • Pagination differs between daily paper and bound editions.
  • Most electronic versions are the daily edition:  Westlaw, Lexis, Proquest CongressionalCongress.gov, FDsys.
  • Bound edition in pdf is available for some years in FDsysProquest Congressional, Hein OnlineLLMC-Digital
  • The MacMillan Law Library only provides the daily edition in print since 1985, has the bound edition in microfiche 1980-1997, and has older volumes of the bound edition in print or microfilm.

Hearings

  • Testimony on treaties before the Senate Foreign Relations and other committees
  • Official versions are published months later and include transcripts, exhibits, appendices.
  • Print:  Find in discoverE by title or in Y4 in USDOCS
  • FDsys with pdf from 1995 to current
  • Proquest Congressional has some hearings in PDF in the Congressional Hearings Digital collection, plus unofficial versions in full-text from FDCH, and SuDocs numbers for finding official versions in print.
  • Hein Online's U.S. Congressional Documents Library includes hearings in pdf from 1900 to the most recent published.
  • Unofficial versions are usually available within a week. They  include prepared statements, sometimes include an unofficial transcript, and the text may vary from the later official version. Find them on Lexis, Westlaw, and Proquest Congressional.
  • Video of hearings, the calendar, and some prepared statements are available from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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