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Federal Legislative History: Bills

Introduction to Bills

A bill is proposed law. Bills are introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate and are numbered sequentially in the order in which they were introduced. Bills are designated S. for Senate bill or H.R. for a House of Representative bill and usually include the Congressional session number -- 108 S. 56. Only a small portion of bills introduced in Congress become law. As a bill goes through each stage of the legislative process, it may be amended and changed many times before it actually is passed in its final version. You will want to compare the language in the different bill versions to determine what has been added or deleted. You may also want to review any related bill considered in a previous Congress since amny bills die in Congress but are re-introduced in the following Congress with another number.

Sources for Bill Texts

Bill Versions

For more information on all bill versions, terminology, definitions, and abbreviations, go to FdSys.

Introduced version. A bill or resolution that is introduced by a House or Senate member. Markup version. After committee hearings, members often mark up a bill adding, deleting, or amending its language. This working copy of a bill is distributed to committee members and staff as they continue to review and revise the bill.

Reported version. Accompanied by a report by the House or Senate committee to which it was referred, the reported version of a bill includes all amendments made by the committee. Deleted or inserted text is included in the preamble of the bill. If more than one committee considers a bill, a final reported version will contain amendments of all the committees and be delineated with different typeface. The reported version is printed by GPO and available online.

Engrossed version. An engrossed bill has passed the chamber that introduced it. This version is usually not available to the public in print format but can be obtained in full-text databases.

ACT version. A bill is referred to as an ―Act when the bill passes in the originating chamber and introduced into the other house. There is not much difference between an engrossed bill and an Act but it is usually more easily accessible than the engrossed version. The Act is reprinted by GPO.

Enrolled version. An enrolled bill is the final copy of a bill or resolution which has passed both houses of Congress and is ready for the President‘s signature. Enrolled bills are not printed by GPO but are frequently made available online.

Companion bill. Bills that have exactly the same language in both chambers are called companion bills. However, companion bills are not numbered identically.

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