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Collection A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation: U.S. Congressional Documents and Debates 1774 to 1875

Bills and Resolutions

Congressional bills are legislative proposals from the House of Representatives and Senate within the United States Congress.

A proposed law may be introduced into either chamber of the Congress as a bill or a joint resolution. When a bill or a resolution is introduced, it is ordered to be printed and referred to one or more committees for review. Multiple versions of the same bill are not uncommon since each time a bill is successfully amended, or when it is introduced into the other house after passage in the first, a new version of the bill is required to be printed.

The sequential numbering of bills for each session of Congress began in the House with the 15th Congress (1817) and in the Senate with the 30th Congress (1847). For these bills, the researcher may consult the bill's number in the index of the appropriate Journal (House or Senate) to determine the ultimate fate of the proposed legislation.

Resolutions are also legislation, but unlike bills they may be limited in effect to the Congress or one of its chambers. Simple resolutions relate to the operations of a single chamber or express the collective opinion of that chamber on public policy issues. Concurrent resolutions relate to the operations of Congress, including both chambers, or express the collective opinion of both chambers on public policy issues. Unlike simple and concurrent resolutions, joint resolutions are considered to have the same effect as bills and require the approval of the President. However, only joint resolutions may be used to propose amendments to the Constitution, and in this instance do not require the approval of the President. Thus, the Bill of Rights was introduced as a joint resolution in the 1st Congress and did not require the approval of the President, while the legislation annexing Texas and granting it statehood was introduced as a joint resolution but did require presidential approval.

Note: The Bills and Resolutions are available for selected sessions of Congress, beginning with the 6th Congress in the House of Representatives, the 16th Congress in the Senate, and the 18th Congress for Senate Joint Resolutions.

This collection is available on Congress.gov.