This guide was originally authored by Terry Swanlund, former Harvard Law School Library Reference Librarian.
If you can't find a compiled legislative history, you can try creating one yourself. You can try with a bill history/tracking service to get more information and references to follow up on the resulting documents. See Bill tracking/bill history sources under Bills.
Senate Executive Documents - Prior to 1895 the designation "Senate Executive Documents" was applied to two largely distinct categories of Executive materials. Most noteworthy were the then confidential Presidential messages to the Senate concerned specifically with treaties and, less commonly, Executive nominations. The treaty communications, then as now, included not only arguments and information supporting favorable Senate action but also the full text of the proposed treaties. Nomination messages typically included only a listing of positions to be filled and the names of nominees. These documents were printed in very limited numbers, were not included in the Serial Set and hence were not widely accessible. Their confidential status was rescinded by the Senate in 1930 and much later, in 1970, they were first formally published as a component of the LexisNexis (CIS) microfiche service. Not until 1980, however, when they were finally incorporated in the Serial Set and added to the Federal Depository Library Program did they become generally available to the public. Two additional changes for materials in this category of Senate Executive Documents were introduced in 1981 when they were renamed "Treaty Documents" and the longstanding use of consecutive letters as the basis for citing individual documents within a Congress was replaced by a numerical sequence.
The second category of Senate Executive Documents dealt with a wide range of often routine administrative subject matter that was communicated by executive department or agency reports rather than by Presidential message. A few treaty and nomination messages, however, were also included but like all documents in this second category these too were always both nonconfidential and available in the Serial Set. In 1895 the Senate Executive Documents category was dropped from the Serial Set and since then all Serial Set documents that previously would have been assigned to it, including the limited nonconfidential treaty and nomination materials, have been published simply as "Senate Documents".
Senate Executive Reports - Recommendations of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in response to Presidential treaty ratification proposals are typically issued as "Senate Executive Reports" as are the recommendations of Senate committees concerning Executive nominations of candidates for positions in the federal government. Senate Executive Reports were treated as confidential until 1930, were initially published in 1970 by the LexisNexis (CIS) microfiche service but became generally available only in 1980 when they were incorporated in the Serial Set and first distributed through the U.S. Federal Depository Library Program. Unlike their Senate Executive Document counterparts, Senate Executive Reports were at no time divided into two categories, one nonconfidential and included in the Serial Set, the other confidential and not included.