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Government Documents

How a Bill Becomes a Law


Bills, Joint Resolutions, Concurrent Resolutions, and Simple Resolutions

Bills are the usual form in which legislation is proposed.  Although thousands of bills be introduced each year, few are enacted into law and most never receive serious consideration.  If not enacted into law, the bill and resolution die at the end of a Congress – the fate of about 95% of those introduced. 


Laws and Statutes

If a bill makes it through all of the stages, then it becomes a law.  U.S. laws can be found in the following sources.


Slip Law       →     Statutes at Large     →    U.S. Code

Slip law - designated by Congress and order that the law was passed.  Example P.L. 111-24    P.L. means Public Law.  111 is the 111th Congressional Session.  24 is the twenty-fourth law passed during the  111th Congress

Statutes at Large - Slip laws are then compiled into the Statutes at Large which includes indexing.  Example The Statutes at Large citation for P.L. 111-24 is 123 Stat. 1734

U.S. Code - Newly passed laws are then codified so that similar laws appear near each other.  The U.S. Code cite for P.L. 111-24 is 15 U.S.C. 1601. Some laws are codified in multiple sections of the U.S. Code depending upon the topic they cover.

Hearings, Reports and Congressional Record