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Law Research Guide: Federal Bills&Resolutions

About Bills

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. 

Where to find Histories of Bills and Laws

Where to find Laws

To understand a bill's progress toward becoming a public law, some databases, govinfo,, 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

Bills and Resolutions

Congress Years Format Location
1st- 1789-2013 online ProQuest Congressional Best Bet for 1789-2013

6th-42nd (H.R.)

16th-42nd (S.)

1799-1873 House

1819-1873 Senate

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, Legislation of the U.S. Congress Best Bet for 1989-present
103rd- 1993-present online govinfo, search or browse Best Bet for 1993-present
103rd- 1993-present online govtrack
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


The text of a particular version of a bill may sometimes appear in congressional hearings, committee or conference reports, the Congressional Record, or a legislative history.

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.

Always feel free to ask us. If all else fails, place a request for the full-text of a bill through Interlibrary Loan.

How to ...

Find a list of appropriations bills for a given fiscal year

Lists are found in:

How to ...

Find bills and resolutions introduced, sponsored, or cosponsored by a particular member

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.

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