About Legislation Text of the U.S. Congress
Congress.gov provides various methods for accessing the full texts of legislation. Among them are:
- “Text” tab of bill and resolution records (example)
- Public Laws – browse by number
- Private Laws – browse by number
- Bill Texts Received Today
- Legislation Text quick search form
Scope of Coverage
Legislation Text in Congress.gov includes the full text of all published versions of bills, resolutions, and laws.
New legislation texts become available on Congress.gov throughout each day, shortly after they are published on GPO’s govinfo.
Bill and resolution texts published by GPO are available on Congress.gov from 1993 (103rd Congress). Bill and resolution texts from 1989-1992 (101st-102nd congresses) that predate authenticated digital publishing are partially available.
Law texts published by GPO are available on Congress.gov from 1995 (104th Congress) in PDF and TXT formats. Law texts from the Statutes at Large collection, published by GPO, are also available on Congress.gov from 1973 to 1994 (93rd – 103rd Congresses) in PDF format.
Please note that when both the House and Senate pass or adopt legislation containing the same legislative text, an ENR measure is created and made available online. The paper version (the official document of record) is presented to the President for his signature. The time between when the last chamber agreed to the legislation and the ENR version is made available at GPO’s govinfo is variable and largely depends on the size of the legislation. Larger documents take longer to prepare. The time between when the ENR is available and additional action steps by the President are made available is also variable and depends on the actions taken by the President. More information on Presidential actions and some of the timeframes can be found in “How Our Laws are Made”.
Browsing Legislation Text
Laws – Throughout each day, shortly after NARA assigns public law (PL) numbers, enacted bills and joint resolutions appear on the Public Laws list. Throughout each day, shortly after new slip law texts are published on GPO’s govinfo, PL numbers on that list link to texts. Private Laws are in a separate list.
Law texts can also be browsed from the “Text” tab of bill and resolution records example.
Bills and resolutions – Legislation by Number in the Browse menu facilitates access to all types of House and Senate legislation.
Searching Legislation Text
When you search legislation text within Congress.gov you are searching only the items that you will find displayed on the “Text” tab of bill and resolution records. There are three options for limiting your search to legislation text.
- Use the Legislation Text search form
- Select “Text – All Bill Versions” or “Text – Latest” from Query Builder
- Use text fields from the search bar or Command Line search
Viewing Legislation Text
Results lists from the Legislation Text quick search form are unique within Congress.gov by including bill text version abbreviations. Those abbreviations are necessary to differentiate the “Engrossed in House – EH” version from the “Introduced in Senate – IS” versions of a bill.
Another way in which legislation text results lists are unique is that they may be separated for you into four sets when you search for multiple terms: exactly as entered, terms near each other in any order, all of your search terms, and any of your search terms.
For example, if you search for the words “proposing an amendment to the constitution” expect four sets within your results list like these:
- Bill texts that contain your phrase exactly as entered (e.g., “proposing an amendment to the constitution” as in H.J.Res.23 — 114th Congress)
- Bill texts that contain all your search terms near each other in any order (e.g., “proposing a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution” as in S.J.Res.18 — 114th Congress)
- Bill texts that contain all of your search terms combined with the search operator AND
- Bill texts that contain any of your search terms combined with the search operator OR