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Federal Legislative History: Bills

A quick and basic guide to finding documents related to the passage of any given federal legislation.

What is a Bill?

Every law begins as a bill, introduced in either the House or Senate. Following any changes in the language of the bill as it progresses through the legislative process my yield some insight into the intent of the law, as passed.

Bills are the most common form of legislation, but proposed legislation may be introduced as Bills, Simple Resolutions, Joint Resolutions or as Concurrent Resolutions. Every introduced legislation has its name, and sometimes its contents in full, published in the Congressional Record on the day it is introduced. Every introduced legislation is then assigned to one of the Standing Committees and that assignment is also printed in the Congressional Record.

The graphic below shows where the language of the bill is published at various stages. 

 

Figure 5. Stages at which Legislative Measures Might be Printed by GPO

GPO Printing Table

 

 

Source: CRS graphic based on requirements taken from 44 U.S.C., Sections 706, 709, 711, 713, 728, and 901.

Notes: In addition to the statutory stages of printing, House Rule XII, cl. 7 (b)(4) provides that a measure may

be reprinted at the written request of the sponsor if 20 or more cosponsors are added after the last printing of

the measure.

 

Recently Introduced Bills from GovTrack.us

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Databases

Free Online Resources

Print Resources

The text of bills before 1989 that did not become law are only available on ProQuest Congressional and in print at the Library of Congress. If you do not have access to ProQuest Congressional, you may request copies by contacting the Library of Congress's Duplication Services department.

Guide content provided courtesy of the Westminster Law Library at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law.