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Social Welfare 220: Introduction to Social Welfare Policy: Legislative History

Finding Federal Legislative History by Topic

Deselect everything except Legislative Histories

How A Bill Becomes Law (federal)

1. Bill is Drafted

2. Introduced in House (or Senate)

3. Sent to Committee (could have hearings/prints; most die here)

6. Floor Action (House or Senate debate and vote)

7. Sent to Senate (or House)

8. Committee Action

9. Bill Called Up

10. Floor Action

11. Conference Committee Proposes compromises between the two - final version must be identical.

12. Vote on Compromise: Both houses must approve changes made by the conference committee. If approved, the bill goes to the president.

13. Presidential Action: The president may sign (approve) the bill or veto (reject) it. If approved, it becomes law.

14. Vote to Override: If the president vetoes the bill, it can still become law if two thirds of both houses vote to override the veto.

Excerpted from How a Bill Becomes Law,

Elements of a Legislative History

Bill (including different versions)

Committee Reports

Congressional Debate

Committee Hearings

Presidential Messages

Committee Prints

Congressional Documents

How to find a legislative history (federal) -- when you know the Bill or Law number

Q:  Using the Search by Number page to search for a legislative history brings back other content types, how do I set up a search to retrieve only the legislative history?

A:  Use the Advanced Search form.  On the Advanced search form you can select the document type you want to retrieve, so deselect the others and check the box for Legislative Histories. 

limit to from the advanced search form

keyword search

After selecting the document type, you can type in the keywords or the public law number in the search box. 


The law number can be formatted several ways (the PL must be in caps): 

  • 101 PL 549  (note the space between the elements)
  • PL101-549  (note there is no space between the elements)
  • P.L. 101-549  (note the space between the elements.  Also, in preliminary testing, the periods appear optional)

search using pl number



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