March 22, 2010
After diligently searching THOMAS, you have found the bill/resolution that you were looking for. Now, you want to read or print out a copy of the actual language of your bill.
In our continuing effort to help members of The American Legion family in their efforts to follow congressional actions, below is a brief discussion about how to find the text of a congressional bill, the different versions of a bill, and which text is contained in a final version signed by the president.
The search result page for your bill contains a variety of links to a myriad of information. For this discussion, let's suppose you click on the link to "Text of Legislation." You will be directed to a page showing the various versions of your bill.
If your bill is newly introduced, or has had very little action taken on it, you will likely go directly to a page that shows the actual text of the bill, without amendments. If the bill is not too lengthy, the full text will be displayed. Sometimes, if a bill is particularly long - an appropriations measure, for example - the bill text will show a series of links, with each link containing a section of the bill. If you wish to see the entire bill, there will be a link near the top of the page labeled, "Printer Friendly." Clicking on that link will display the entire bill, and can be printed out in its entirety.
If your bill has been journeying through the legislative process, then there will be more than one version of your bill's text available to you. After clicking on the "Text of Legislation" link, you will be directed to a page with a listing of the different versions of the bill. The heading on the page will say, "There are [x] versions of bill number _______ in the 111th Congress." Each version can be identified in this manner:
"Introduced in [House or Senate]" - This is the original, unamended version of your bill. The bill is then assigned to a committee (or multiple committees) of jurisdiction. Hearings may be held, and some of the text may be amended or even eliminated.
"Reported in [House or Senate]" - After a measure has been considered by various subcommittees as well as the original committee of jurisdiction, it will be approved by the committee for further action by the congressional chamber in which it was originally introduced.
"Engrossed as Agreed to or Passed by the [House or Senate]" - Once the bill reaches one of the congressional chambers, the bill will be further debated and likely amended further on the floor. After passage by the originating chamber, it will be sent to the other chamber for further action.
"Referred to [House or Senate] Committee after being Received from [Senate or House]" - In some cases, a bill will contain some grammar or punctuation errors in the process of being amended. If this is the case, corrections to the text version passed by the chamber are made. This text version will reflect those corrections.
"Enrolled as Agreed to or Passed by Both House and Senate" - Once a measure reaches the other chamber, it is debated and sometimes amended by the second chamber before passage. If amended by the second chamber, it will be returned to the originating chamber to approve the changes. If not amended, the final version of the bill is then prepared and examined to ensure that all changes to the bill have been made (this in the enrollment process). Then, when the measure has been certified by the Secretary of the Senate and the Clerk of the House, the bill is sent to the White House for the president's signature. This, then, is the final version of a measure which is enacted into public law.
These are the five most basic versions of a bill's text. Other versions may occur. If both chambers pass a bill with differing text, a conference committee will be required to reconcile differences in the two text versions.