April 20, 2010
In our continuing effort to help members of The American Legion family in their efforts to follow and understand congressional actions, we now present a brief discussion concerning how a piece of legislation can be tracked through the legislative process using THOMAS.
As soon as you have found the Web page for a bill, there are three links displayed on the far right side of the page that will assist you. These links are "Major Congressional Actions," "All Congressional Actions" and "All Congressional Actions with Amendments." Each of these links gives varying amounts of information about the progress of your bill.
For instance, the "Major Congressional Actions" link only give the basic information about action on your bill: introduced on this date, approved by the committee with jurisdiction on a second date, passed by House or Senate on another date, sent to president on a different date, and signed into law by the president. Very basic information is presented using this link.
The next link presented, "All Congressional Actions," goes into much greater detail. It presents full reporting on each action which occurs on the bill. For example, if the House takes several days to consider or debate your bill, each day is listed, along with a link to the pages in the Congressional Record where each day's discussion took place. When a vote is taken on the bill, there is a link to the "Recorded Votes" section of THOMAS.
During the course of debate on legislation, quite often amendments are proposed to the bill. Information on amendments can be found in the link, "All Congressional Actions with Amendments." On this page, all action on a bill is presented. If Rep. Smith introduces a number of amendments to the legislation, each amendment is numbered, a brief description of what the amendment seeks to accomplish, and links to the text of the amendment in the Congressional Record. When a particular amendment is debated, there will also be a link to the text of the consideration of the amendment in the Record.
Once a measure is approved by one chamber, it is then sent to the other chamber for further action. Often, one chamber will make changes to legislation already passed by the other body. If this happens, then the bill is sent back to the other body to approve the changes made in the original measure. Again, the "All Congressional Actions with Amendments" link will list all the events which occur in which changes are made to a bill.
Another area on THOMAS where actions on legislation can be followed is on the Web sites of the various committees (For information on finding committees' Web sites, please consult Part 8 of this series). Committees will often report actions on bills which emerged from their original jurisdiction. Many times this reporting is directly on the front page of the Web site; more often it is contained in another area such as "News Room" or "Press Releases."