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Political Science

This guide will point you to the best places to find books, articles and other sources of information for your Political Science courses.

How a Bill Becomes a Law

The Legislative Process

If you are unfamiliar with the path that a bill takes before (or if) it becomes a law, there are a number of useful resources available that can guide you through the process. Having a basic understanding of the steps of law-making will make it that much easier to choose the right resource for locating particular documents.

Bills and Resolutions

The four principal forms of Congressional actions are bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and simple resolutions. After a bill or resolution is introduced, it is assigned a legislative number, printed, and referred to a committee. A quick overview of their different designations is listed below.  For more detailed explanations of the four principal forms of legslation go to the Bills & Resolutions section of 
Bills  Designated by originating chamber (House or Senate) and sequential number. 
S indicates Senate and HR indicate House of Representatives. 
Joint Resolution  Designated by originating chamber (House or Senate), J (joint), and sequential number. 
(S. J. Res).
Concurrent Resolution Designated by originating chamber  (House or Senate), Con(concurrent), and a sequential number (H. Con. Res or S. Con. Res).
Simple Resolution Designated by originating chamber (House or Senate), Res (resolution), and a sequential number (S. Res or H. Res.).

Committee Hearings

After the referral of a bill to committee, members of the House set a date for public hearings to hear witness testimony. Hearings are held for most substantive proposals. Business dealt with by hearings may be broadly classified into four types: legislative, oversight, investigative, and consideration of presidential nominations. Transcripts of most hearings are published and growing collections of videotaped congressional hearings are also available. Please note that not all hearings are published. Listed below are databases and other online resources for hearings.

Committee Reports

If the committee votes to report a bill, a committee report is produced. Committee reports are produced by House and Senate committees and accompany legislation. Each report provides a description of a bill, a description of the committee actions, findings of committee hearings and the outcome of committee deliberations. Committee reports usually are one of the following: (1) reports that accompany a legislative measure when it is reported for chamber action; (2) reports resulting from oversight or investigative activities; (3) reports of conference committees; and (4) committee activity reports, published at the conclusion of a Congress.

Committee Prints

A committee print might include committee rules or a report on a policy issue the committee wants to distribute widely, but in a form which is less formal than a committee report. A committee may also prepare a text which the Senate (by resolution) orders printed as a numbered Senate document.


After a bill is reported out of Committee, it precedes to the floor of the House or Senate for consideration and debate. During the debates, members argue for and against the proposed legislation. All debates on the bill are read into the Congressional Record which is the official record of the proceedings, debates and activities of Congress. The Congressional Record also contains inserted materials, communications from the President and executive agencies, memorials, and petitions. The Congressional Record also contains the full text of the bill itself, the text of any amendments, and the record of votes taken. Listed below are resources for the Congressional Record.

Congressional Research Service (CRS) Reports

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is the non-partisan research arm of the United States Congress. CRS experts prepare reports to assist Congressmen throughout the legislative process with background information on various public policy issues and debates. Research is conducted in  American law,  domestic social policy, foreign affairs, defense and trade, government and finance, resources, and science and industry. A typical CRS report provides a summary and overview of an issue, as well as detailed background information and recent developments. Reports contain citations of sources along with figures and tables.