Federal Bills

Federal Bills in the United States

Legal Materials

A Federal “bill” is the text of legislation being considered for passage in either the Senate or the House of Representatives. Federal bills are officially published in theCongressional Record (see “Congressional Record” in this legal Encyclopedia).

In addition, Federal bills are posted free on Thomas from the 101st Congress (1989-90) and on FDsys from the 102nd Congress (1991-92). Federal bills are also available on CQ.com from the 104th Congress (1995-96), Lexis.com, Westlaw and Loislaw. For more, see Richard J. McKinney’s Sources for the Text of Congressional Bills and Resolutions.

Lexis posts Federal bills on the day they are published by the GPO. If you have a bill number, you can pull a Federal bill from Lexis using the format: “1997 S 4” or “105 HR 15.”

Amendments: Amendments are available on Thomas back to at least 1996 (99th Congress) and CQ back to 2001-2002 (107th Congress).

Bill Status Federal bill status is available on Congress.gov. To get more information about the status of a pending bill, see Open Congress.

For questions, call the House of Representatives’ legislative information line at 202-226-1772 or the Senate (202-224-7860). Or visit the House or Senate websites.

Forecasts: Some services try to predict the likelihood that a bill would pass. These include the Congressional Bills Legislative Forecast – Current Congress database by State Net (available on Lexis (LEGIS;BLCAST)), and CQ’s Bill Analysis.

Historical Bills: The text of older bills is available in back issues of the Congressional Record (see “Congressional Record” in this legal Encyclopedia).

Impact on U.S. Code (“Legislative Impact”): House and Senate bills generally state exactly where they would change the text of the U.S. Code, although seeing the impact can be difficult. To make this easier, CQ and Potomac Publishing both have “Legislative Impact” databases that display the relevant Code sections as they would be affected by pending bills.

Managers: In common Congressional parlance, the “manager” (also called a “bill manager” or “floor manager”) is the Senator or Representative who controls the time for discussing a bill. There are generally two bill managers – the Chairman of the relevant committee (who will be from the majority party), and the most senior member of the relevant committee from the minority party. Bill managers are often assigned by a simple resolution of the Rules committee. The role of bill manager is sometimes delegated, most commonly to the Chair of the relevant subcommittee. Note 1: All the members of a Conference Committee are called “managers” and are listed as such on Conference Committee Reports. Note 2: The Senators or Representatives working to end a filibuser can also be called “managers” [see Charles Tiefter, Congressinal Practice and Procedure: A Reference, Research, and Legislative Guide, p. 707 (Greenwood Press, 1989)].

For questions and materials governing the role of managers, see the “Rules of Procedure” section of the “House of Representatives” and “United States Senate” entries in this legal Encyclopedia.

Star Prints: If there is an error in the original text of an enrolled bill, an amended text called a “Star Print” will be published. The Star Print supersedes the original.

Tracking: For free tracking, try Congress.gov, GovTrack.us and/or Scout by the Sunlight Foundation. Federal bill tracking is also available from Lexis, Westlaw,Bloomberg Government, and CQ.com. CQ.com will allow you to track their related editorial content along with the progress of the bill.

Vetoed Bills: A list of bills vetoed by the President for each Congressional session is available on Thomas back to the 93rd Congress, 1973-4 (choose the appropriate session and then, under the heading “Bills and Resolutions,” choose “Vetoed Bills.”

More Information: For a discussion of the Federal legislative process, seeFundamentals of Legal Research (West). For a visual representation of the legislative process, see the detailed map of How Our Laws Are Made.

See Also

Bill Status
Congressional Record
Federal Legislative History
Presidential Materials

Federal Bills: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Federal Bills. This part provides references, in relation to Federal Bills, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Federal Bills by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Federal Bills and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Federal Bills or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Federal Bills and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Federal Bills. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Federal Bills should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Federal Bills when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

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