LEGISLATION, LAWS, AND ACTS

House Bills and Resolutions: A bill originating in the House of Representatives is designated by the letters ‘H.R.’ followed by a number that it retains throughout all its parliamentary stages.

Senate Bills and Resolutions: A Senate bill is designated by the letter ‘S.’ followed by its number

Joint Resolutions are designated H.J. Res. or S.J. Res. and are followed by a number. They become law after approval by both houses and the President. There is no practical difference from bills, but joint resolutions generally deal with more limited matters.

Concurrent resolutions, are designated H.Con. Res. or S.Con. Res., and followed by a number. They deal with matters that affect the operations of both chambers and must have both chambers’ approval, but do not require Presidential support.

Simple resolutions are designated H.Res. and S.Res., followed by a number.  A simple resolution addresses matters entirely within the prerogative of one house.

Find more detailed information at the United States Senate website.

A bill or resolution is introduced by a member and generally referred to a Congressional committee as part of its passage to approval. The first printing of a bill or resolution includes:

  • the number and session of the Congress
  • the designation
  • the number of the bill
  • the name of the body in which it was introduced
  • date of introduction
  • the name of the member who introduced it
  • the Committee to which it was referred.

Library Holdings and online access

Time Period

Format and links

House and Senate Bills

1789 -1879

Includes the bills, resolutions, joint resolutions and concurrent resolutions of the House and Senate

Microfilm

Bills and Resolutions

House: 1700-1873

Senate: 1819-1873

Senate Joint Resolutions: 1824-1873

Online from the Library of Congress

House

Senate

Senate Joint Resolutions

Digest of Public General Bills and Resolutions

1936-1987

Provides summaries of bills only

Paper

1936-1970 held offsite

1970-1987 in Controlled Access Collection

House and Senate Bills

1961 -1965

Microcard

Bills

1982 – 2010

House

Senate

Microfiche

House

Senate

House and Senate Bills

1993 to date

Online from the US Government Printing Office

Joint Resolutions

House Joint Resolutions: 1982-2010

Senate Joint Resolutions: 1982-2010

Microfiche

House

Senate

Concurrent Resolutions

House Concurrent Resolutions: 1982-2010

Senate Concurrent Resolutions: 1982-2010

Microfiche

House

Senate

Bills, Amendments and Resolutions

1973 to date

Online

All legislation since 1973; a searchable database at Congress.gov

See also:

Congressional Information Service annual (CIS annual) (1970-2000) Held offsite

From 1970 to 1983 the CIS Annual contains two types of volumes: Index and Abstracts. A condensed 'Legislative History' section is included in the Abstracts volume. From 1984 onwards, detailed legislative histories are published in a separate volume called Legislative Histories of U.S. Public Laws. References are made to all relevant documents for every law enacted during a session of Congress.

United States code congressional and administrative news (USCCAN) (1972-2011) Controlled Access Collection

Contains a 'Table of Legislative History and Index' arranged by public law number referencing the date approved, Statutes at Large citation, bill number, House and Senate reports numbers, abbreviations for the names of the House and Senate committees reporting, dates of consideration and passage in the Congressional Record, and citations for Presidential signing documents.

  Government publications

BACKGROUND

The legislative process in Congress is described in the booklet, How Our Laws Are Made by Charles W. Johnson (1998). An updated version (2007) is available online from the Library of Congress. From Section IV:

A bill is the form used for most legislation, whether permanent or temporary, general or special, public or private.

The form of a House bill is as follows:

A BILL
For the establishment, etc. [as the title may be].
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That, etc.

The enacting clause was prescribed by law in 1871 and is identical in all bills, whether they originate in the House of Representatives or in the Senate.

House and Senate versions of the same bill often differ because each chamber amends the bill before enacting it.

MAJOR ONLINE SOURCES

Library of Congress 

Full text and summaries of bills and resolutions, links to text of amendments in the Congressional Record, amendment summaries, full text of public laws (enrolled bills). Full text files available from 101st Congress; summary files from the 93rd. All bills and resolutions browsable and searchable. Browsable lists of bills, sequential by bill type and number, and lists of public laws, browsable by P.L. number. Bills and resolutions searchable by bill number, keyword, index term, sponsor, committee, stage in the legislative process and/or date.

Government Printing Office

Full text of bills and resolutions and public laws. Amendment text searchable in the Congressional Record. Files available from the 103rd Congress. Searchable.

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