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Legislative History Research: Bills

What is a Bill?

The first step in the legislative process is introducing a bill in Congress. If a bill is introduced in the House, it is given the number H.R. ____, if it is introduced in the Senate, it is given the number S. _____. Each bill has has one sponsor and can have multiple cosponsors.

Bills can be amended through the legislative process. Comparing different versions of a bill might help you determine legislative intent.

What is a Resolution?

There are three types of resolutions. You can usually find resolutions using the same resources you use to find bills.

1. Joint Resolutions are very similar to bills. They require approval in both the House and the Senate, and are submitted to the President. When signed, joint resolutions have the force of law. A joint resolution originating in the Senate is designated by the letters "S.J.Res." followed by a number and joint resolutions introduced in the House of Representatives are designated "H.J.Res." and a number.

2. Concurrent Resolutions concern the operations of Congress or relate to public policies. Although both the House and Senate need to approve concurrent resolutions, they are not signed by the President and do not have the force of law. Concurrent Resolutions are labeled "H.Con.Res." or "S.Con.Res."

3. Simple Resolutions only apply to the House or Senate, and only need to be passed in the relevant chamber. They are not presented to the President.


Use Bluebook Rule 13.2 for Bills and Resolutions.

Subscription Resources

Password-protected, access provided by the Law Library to current members of the Law School community:

Bloomberg Law - from 103rd Congress to the present

HeinOnline US Congressional Documents Library. Includes Congressional Record from 43rd Congress, Special Session to 114th Congress, 2nd Session, and Congressional Record Daily, which has updated daily since 1980.

Lexis - from 101st Congress to the present

ProQuest Legislative Insight - covers Public Laws from 1929 to the present, along with related bills, hearings, Congressional Research Service reports, committee prints, committee reports, Congressional Record sections, and Presidential Signing Statements.

Westlaw - from 104th Congress to present

Free Resources

Free resources can be more cumbersome to search but often have resources going back father than commercial services. - from 1973 to present - from 1983 to present