Skip to main content

Legislative Research - Federal: Bills

Introducing a Bill

A bill is drafted and introduced in one chamber of Congress by a legislator or group of legislators; it is assigned a bill number, and sent to a committee.  House bills are usually abbreviated “H.R. [Number]”; Senate bills, “S. [Number]."  For example, the 23rd bill introduced in the House a given session of Congress would be abbreviated  "H.R. 23"   The bill may be amended at any stage of the legislative process an unlimited number of times.  Changes in bill language as the bill is amended may be useful for inferring legislative intent, since they imply legislative choices.  If a bill has not yet been enacted into law by the end of the two-year session, it is dropped.

After being introduced, the bill will be referred to a committee for review. The introduction and referral of a bill will be recorded in the Congressional Record and the official Journal of the chamber in which it is introduced. If the bill passes through committee it will be debated and voted on in the house or Senate.  It is then sent to the other legislative chamber, where the process of introduction, committee assignment, and floor debate will be repeated.

The record of a bill's introduction can be found in the Congressional Record and the House and Senate Journals. The original text of a bill can be found by using the following resources. To find the original text, look for the text of the bill "as Introduced."

Bills are assigned to standing committees of the House or Senate, where hearings are held to investigate concerns and elicit views of persons interested or expert in proposed legislation.  The Law Library collects many hearings, which may be searched by title or keyword in the online catalog.

Bill Versions

Bills will go through several versions as they are amended through committees, debate, and reconciliation. a few common versions of bills are:

"Introduced" - the text of the bill as it was introduced in either the House or Senate

"Engrossed" - the bill as it was passed by one legislative chamber

"Enrolled" - the final version of the bill as passed in identical form by both the House and Senate.  This is the version sent to the President.

House and Senate Journals

Published at the end of a session, the journals of Congress are the only publications required by the Constitution and as such are the official documents for the proceedings of Congress. They both contain a History of Bills and Resolutions and a name/subject/title index. Presidential communications to Congress, e.g. Addresses, messages, and vetoes, are included.  Unlike the Congressional Record, the Journals do not include transcripts of debate and are generally less easy to find by members of the public.  Recent editions of the House Journal is accessible online through FDSys, while the full run of the Senate Journal is only available to the public in print and microform.

House of Representatives-

Online:

In the Library:

Senate-

In the Library: 

Congressional Record

The Congressional Record is the verbatim transcript of the debates and actions on the floors of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. The "Daily Digest," inserted in the back of each print issue, is a brief summary of the day's activities. The Congressional Record itself has been published since 1873, but some record of Congressional debate has been published since the first congress in 1789. 

Online:

In the Library:

Congressional Record. 43rd Congress, 1st session - 96th Congress, 1st session  (1873-1979) 
GOVPUB FILM X 1.1/A:Congress no./Session  

Congressional Record. Permanent edition. Published by U.S. Government Printing Office. 95th Congress, 1st session, - 108th Congress, 2nd session. (1977-2006) 
Paging changes with the permanent edition. Must use theboundindex to the permanent edition.   
GOVPUB FICHE X 1.1/A:.Congress no./Session  

Congressional Record. Permanent edition. Published by University Microfilms, Inc. (UMI). 97th Congress, 2nd session - 101st Congress, 1st session (1982-1989). GOVPUB FICHE X 1.1/A:.Congress no./Session (No call number on fiche; filed in drawers after official GPO edition)

 

Indexes: