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Topic: Federal Legislative History and Analysis — Bills

Tools and resources for researching the evolution of a law using the primary documents - the bill, committee reports, hearings, etc. - and secondary analysis of the legislation and federal policy.


Congressional bills are proposed legislation originating in the House of Representatives and/or Senate. House bills (H.R.) and Senate bills (S.) are numbered sequentially throughout each Congress, and require the approval of both chambers and the President to become law. There are a total of eight different types of bills; other common bill prefixes include H.J. Res. (House Joint Resolution)  and H. Res. (House Simple Resolution). See About Congressional Bills (Government Printing Office website) for more information.

Citation conventions for Bills

Citations to bills may contain the Congressional session number, followed by the abbreviation for the bill type, and the bill's number (bills are numbered consecutively throughout each session). If the citation doesn't include include the session number, use this table to determine the Congress number, based on the date the bill was introduced.

Key to bill citations
Abbreviation Type of Bill Example
S. Bill originating in Senate 92 S. 659
H.R. Bill originating in the House 115 H.R. 1
S. Res Simple resolution originating in the Senate S. Res. 2
H. Res Simple resolution originating in the House 105 H. Res. 139
S.J. Res. Joint resolution originating in the Senate S.J. Res. 4
H.J. Res. Joint resolution originating in the House H.J. Res 5
S. Con. Res. Concurrent resolution originating in the Senate 106 S. Con. Res. 37
H. Con. Res. Concurrent resolution originating in the House 107 H. Con. Res. 289


Online Access to Bills

Tips on Locating Bills

When you don't know the bill number for the legislation you're researching:

  • The original bill numbers of enacted laws are referenced in the margin in Statutes at Large; bill numbers are included in CIS Congressional Index (see link below) and U.S. Code Congressional and Administrative News
  • Cumulative Finding Aid, House and Senate Bills: Babbidge Federal Documents Reading Room (Level B) provides reference numbers for locating bills introduced in the 96th - 103rd Congresses, in the Federal Documents microfiche collection (see information below).

Descriptions of Bills introduced by members of Congress can often be located in Congressional Globe (1833-1873) in Index entries beginning: "Resolutions submitted by ... "  Subsequently, the Congressional Record (1873-present) includes a "History of Bills" section in the Index volume for each session. (See tips for searching Hein Online in Debates)

Congressional Index (New York: Commerce Clearing House Inc.) Babbidge Library KF 49 .C6 (1947-1996)

Congressional Index provides a great deal of detailed information on bills:

  • Companion Bills For any bill introduced in the House or Senate, a cross-reference table provides the bill number for companion legislation in the other chamber when identical bills are introduced simultaneously. 
  • Subject Index for all bills proposed during a session of Congress
  • Author Index All bills and resolutions introduced by individual members of Congress
  • Bill Summary Brief description of purpose of proposed legislation
  • Bill number, date of introduction, sponsors, where referred - example of page from Congressional Index
  • Bill information in the Congressional Globe and Congressional Record - (through Congressional Publications in Hein Online)

Bills in Print & Microfiche

Options for Access to text of Bills:

  • 1973 to current -  (description of all bills from 1973; full text of bills from 1989- )
  • 1967 - 1978 (90th Congress - 95th Congress): CIS House and Senate Bills Babbidge Federal Documents Microfiche (Level B) 
  • 1979 - 2008 (96th Congress - 110th Congress, 2nd Session) Babbidge Federal Documents Microfiche (Level B)  (Microfiche can be scanned for free using one of two microfiche scanners on Level 1). Senate Bills have Superintendant of Documents (SuDoc) number  -  Y 1.4/1: ; House Bills are  SuDoc: Y 1.4/6:
  • pre-1967: request through Interlibrary Loan.