A bill is a proposal for legislation. Individual bills are written and introduced into the House or Senate by a member of that chamber.
In any session of Congress many bills are introduced, and only a few are passed. Most bills are amended from the original, dropped entirely or combined with language from the other chamber's version of a bill with similar intent.
To understand a bill's progress toward becoming a public law, some databases, govinfo, congress.gov, and ProQuest Congressional have "bill history" or "bill tracking" sections where researchers can follow the chronological sequence of actions on a bill, its current status, and locate the associated publications. The final version of the bill, agreed to by both the Senate and the House, is sent to the President for signature or veto. Bills that are signed by the President are called Public Laws (or Private Laws).
Example of a bill (S. 1252, 2016)
Common Versions of Bills, Government Publishing Office
|1st-||1789-2013||online||ProQuest Congressional Best Bet for 1789-2013|
|online||Century of Lawmaking
Includes only selected bills and resolutions.
|74th-101st, w/gaps||1936-1990, w/gaps||online||Digest of Public General Bills and Resolutions via HathiTrust
Summary only; does not provide the full text of bills and resolutions. Provides "in summary form, the essential features of public bills and resolutions and changes thereto made during the legislative process. It also indicates committee and floor action and includes sponsor and cosponsor, identical bill, short title, and subject indexes."
|84th-101st||1955-1990||paper||Digest of Public General Bills and Resolutions.
Govt Doc LC 14.6:
See description above.
|101st-||1989-present||online||congress.gov, Legislation of the U.S. Congress Best Bet for 1989-present|
|103rd-||1993-present||online||govinfo, search or browse Best Bet for 1993-present|
|104th-previous cong.||1995-previous Congress||online||Westlaw. Choose: Proposed & Enacted Legislation > Historical Proposed Legislation (Bills) (a.k.a. Historical Federal Bills)|
|Current cong.||online||Westlaw. Choose: Proposed & Enacted Legislation > Congressional Bills|
To find a bill by subject or keyword, use one of the sources for the full-text of a bill above or the index to the Congressional Record. For a bill that became law, also use one of the sources for the full-text of laws. In either case, sources for the history of bills or laws might also be useful.
Lists are found in:
Use a database that can be searched by member's name such as:
Alternatively, using the print index to the Congressional Record or searching it electronically, look up the member's name. Look for a subheading beginning with "Bills and resolutions". Each entry includes a summary of the bill, the bill number, the page number in the Congressional Record, and the date.