Legislative History of a law passed by US Congress
1. Select one law passed by the United States Congress. The law you choose should
constitute a major legislative initiative. Acceptable examples might include the
Welfare Reform Act of 1996, Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991, Economic
Recovery Tax Act of 1981, War Powers Act of 1973, Civil Rights Act of 1964 or
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. For more possibilities,
consult the “Congressional Timeline” in Congress and Its Members.
2. Collect information from relevant books, periodicals, journals, and materials from
the Internet. In performing research, you will need to look beyond the course texts
and lecture notes. Your final paper should contain citations and a bibliography of
at least 10 sources in addition to your course readings. The Internet contains a
vast array of resources, many of which may be useful in your research. Keep in
mind though that you need to evaluate the material you find on the Internet just as
carefully as you would printed material. For example, who is publishing the
website that you are using: an interest group, political party, newspaper, business,
or individual? What are their credentials? The biases of the author affect the
credibility of the material and need to be considered carefully in deciding whether
the source is adequate for your research.
Write an essay that tells the story of how the legislative process transformed
a set of ideas into a law. Your paper should include a clear thesis statement
that explains how Congress, the institution, and specific legislators influenced
the content and course of the legislation. Your discussion should address many
or all of the following questions:
1. Why did Congress or individual legislators initially decide to address
What controversies surrounded the issue?
What role did individual members, committees, and congressional
leaders play in developing the legislation?
4. For the bill to become law, what were the crucial hurdles to be
5. How did opponents attempt to derail or change the legislation?