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Federal Statutes: A Beginner’s Guide

Bills and Resolutions

A bill, or legislation, is a proposal for congressional action. A bill is introduced in either the House or the Senate. There are four types of legislation:

  1. Bills - Bills are the primary vehicle used for proposal of congressional action.
  2. Simple Resolutions - This type of legislation is used for internal chamber affairs. Because they only impact one chamber, they do not require action by the other chamber.
  3. Joint Resolution - This type of legislation has a similar method of passage as bills. It requires approval of both chambers and the signature of the President.
  4. Concurrent Resolution - This type of legislation addresses matters impacting both chambers. They are not submitted to the President for approval.

Federal bills can be found in print and microfiche in the Law Library of Congress (see list of titles below which link to bibliographic information in the LIbrary of Congress Online Catalog). Bills and resolutions from the 1st through the 72nd Congress (1789-1932) are available on microfilm under the call number LL-01. Those from the 73rd to the 109th (1933-2006) are on microfiche and have the call number LL-F-21. The Law Library of Congress also has print bills. House bills go back to the second term of the 6th Congress (1800) and those for the Senate date back to the second term of the 18th Congress (1824).

Subscription Databases

Additionally, bills may be accessed via subscription databases shown below.

The subscription resources marked with a padlock are available to researchers on-site at the Library of Congress. If you are unable to visit the Library, you may be able to access these resources through your local public or academic library.

Free Online Resources

There are also several free websites that provide access to Federal bills and resolutions.