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Federal Legislative History Research: Bills

This guide will outline the resources available at the University of Missouri School of Law for federal legislative history research.

What is a Bill?

A bill is drafted and introduced in one chamber of Congress by a legislator; it is assigned a bill number, and referred to a committee.  House bills are usually abbreviated “H.R. 2315”; Senate bills, “S. 425.”  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.

Terms to Know

Engrossed Bill: Once a bill passes in its originating house, it is called an engrossed bill. 

Act: Once a bill passes in its originating house and It is sent to the other house, it is called an act.

Enrolled Act: Once the bill passes both houses, it is called an enrolled act.

Enacted: Made into law.

How to Cite a Bill

Bluebook Rule 13.2 (b)

"Enacted federal bills and resolutions. Enacted bills and joint resolutions are statutes (rule 12). they are cited as statutes except when used to document legislative history, in which case they are cited as unenacted bills."

Examples

Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, 111th Cong. (2010).

Congressional Accountability Act of 1995, S. 2, 104th Cong. (1995).

 

Bills

Best Bet - Start Your Research Here!

Other Options

More Resources

Sources for the Text of Congressional Bills and Resolutions

  • LLSDC - Law Librarians' Society of Washington, DC

BloombergLaw:               

LexisNexis:

  • Bill Text (coverage begins with 101st Congress in 1989)

Westlaw:

  • CONG-BILLTXT database (for current bills)
  • CONG-BILLTXTxxx where xxx is the Congress number, e.g., CONG-BILLTXT106 to search bills from the 106th Congress. (from 106th Cong., 1999-2000)

Online:            

  • Congress.gov (bill text available from 101st Cong., 1989); bill summary & status from 93rd Cong., 1973)
  • FDsys: (Bill text available from 103rd Cong., 1993 - present)
  • govinfo(Bill text available from 103rd Cong., 1993 - present)

In the Library:

  • Senate Bills are on microfiche from the 97th Cong., 1981-82 to current.  Shelved in the microfiche cabinets in the Library Subplaza by {SuDocs} Y1.4... number.
  • House Bills are on microfiche from the 96th Cong., 1980-81 to current.  Shelved in the microfiche cabinets in the Library Subplaza by {SuDocs} Y1.4... number.
  • NOTE: Beginning with the 96th Congress it is necessary to consult a Finding Aid located on top of the microfiche cabinets.

Additional Sources:

  • 1933-1988................................. The University of Arizona has a complete set of this time period. This set is microform - request through interlibrary loan. For interlibrary loan purposes the official title is Congressional bills, resolutions, and laws.
  • 1801-1829.................................
    1861-1899.................................House and Senate Bills and Resolutions on microfilm in MU Ellis Special Collections. Filmed by the Library of Congress.
  • 1789-1933................................ Center for Research Libraries (microform - request through interlibrary loan)  

  • 1789-1921................................. The University of Washington has an incomplete set of this time period. This set is microform - request through interlibrary loan. For interlibrary loan purposes the official title is Congressional bills, resolutions, and laws.

  • See also guide to bill versions