If you are doing general searching, start in LexisNexis: Legislative Histories, Bills & Laws.
Bills are numbered by number of Congress, type, number. For example, 109 S. 397 " Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act" is from the 109th Congress, Senate bill, numbered 397. There are many types of bills:
H.R. (House) and S. (Senate) are bills.
H.Res. (House Resolution) and S.Res. (Senate Resolution) are resolutions, which deal mainly with the chamber's operations.
H.J.Res. (House Joint Resolution) and S.J.Res. (Senate Joint Resolution) are jont resolutions, which are nearly the same as bills. However, resolutions are used for Constitutional amendments.
H.Con.Res. (House Concurrent Resolution) and S.Con.Res. (Senate Concurrent Resolution) deals with the matters of both chambers, such as budgets or joint committees. These resolutions are not given to the President for approval and are not laws.
If you are looking back in time to find bills and can't find full text copies on line, get the bill number and look for a paper copy.
LexisNexis: Legislative Histories, Bills and Laws
You can search by the following options:
- Bills (Text Function) allows you to search through the full-text of all of the versions of bills (1989-current)
- Bill Tracking contains information on action taken on a bill, i.e., introduction, sponspors, etc.(1989-current).
- Legislative Histories contain all the information about bills that become law (1969-current).
Library of Congress (Thomas): Bills has information about bills back to 1989.
From 1874-approximately 1969, try paper resources.
American Memory: Bills and Resolutions (1799-1873) has copies of bills.
From 1979 (96th Congress), check our microfiche for bills.
1. For bill number 97 H.R. 3359, you see by the first number that it's the 97th Congress. In the Government Documents collection, you need to find the Final Cumulative Finding Aid, House and Senate Bills. The are shelved GP3.28: congressional session.
2. In the Finding Aid for that Congress, look for the H.R. number. For the entry of the number, you find Fiche No. 221. So, we know that the bill is on that fiche card.
3. You need to now find the fiche. At the beginning of the Finding Aid, you find the SuDoc numbers for the fiche series that have these documents. The most common are Y 1.4/1: Congressional session for Senate Bills and Y 1.4/6: Congressional session for House Bills. So, look in the fiche series for the fiche number that has the bill.
Before 1979, it becomes tricky. You can try
- The Congressional Record (See below)
- House or Senate Reports (See below)
- The media, e.g., The New York Times, sometimes reported on bills in the 1800s, or secondary sources, e.g., books on the subject.
- Try American Memory: Bills and Resolutions (1799-1873) which has pdf copies of bills.