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Legislative History: Legislative Process

Legislative history details and resources at Paley Library

The Legislative Process -- SIMPLIFIED!

Here are the general steps in the ratification process and the documents yielded by each.

Bill introduced by sponsor to House or Senate

                           >> bill text

                           >> remarks

Bill referred to committee or subcommittee for consideration

                           >> prints

                           >> hearings

                           >> documents

                           >> amendments

                           >> committee votes


Committee reports bill and recommendations to full chamber

                           >> report

Bill considered by full chamber

                           >> debate and vote

With a vote of approval in one chamber, the bill then moves to the other chamber

                           >> bill tracking

Bill moves through other chamber via committee consideration, reporting, etc.

                           >> debate and vote

If parallel bills are moving through each chamber, the two are reconciled by a conference committee and reported to the full chambers via a conference report

                           >> report, debate and vote

Bill sent to President for signing

                           >> engrossed bill

                           >> signing statement

If vetoed, bill returns to congress for vote

                           >> vote

Once passed, bill becomes public law, numbered sequentially

                           >> act, slip law (P.L., Statutes at Large)

Then codified by topic

                           >> U.S.C. (USCA, USCS)

For more detail...

There can be several twists and turns in a bill’s journey through Congress, as the Law Library of Congress illustrates here.  When in doubt, ask a librarian!


Other Legislative History Guides

Julia Taylor, Legislative History Research: A Basic Guide, CRS, Jun. 15, 2011.

Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, D.C.

Federal Legislative Research: A Practitioner’s Guide

**Federal Legislative Research: A Practitioner’s Guide, Part II**

Many of the twists and turns unraveled here!  Plus, technicalities that may be game changers. 


Library of Congress

Federal Legislative History


Georgetown Law Library

**Legislative History Research**

Nice round-up of free web resources.



Temple Law Library

Legislative History Pathfinder

This pathfinder details Temple Law Library’s legislative history resources, their holdings, date coverage and locations in the Law Library.


Legislative history documents are not created equal.  Some documents have been given more weight by courts.  Committee reports, sponsor remarks and hearing transcripts top the charts.  Less persuasive are failed bill versions, remarks by those outside Congress and subsequent history.

For more information, consult the links listed in the "Why do Legislative History?" box on the Welcome page.