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How Congress Passes Laws Now: Home

Project Goals

This study reviews how laws were passed based during the 111th-116th Congresses and the information sources that were generated for each law.  Like other studies of Congressional output, this does not review all legislation, but only those substantive enough to likely to be encountered by the legislative history researcher.  Substantive laws are defined as any which add to, subtract from or otherwise amend U.S. Code; authorize or appropriate significant amount of funds; or make substantive or significant change in policy.  It also excludes those bills that are solely commemorative or have no other real or potential significant effects, e.g. the naming of post offices or other federal buildings.  This resulted in a dataset of 1,554 laws.  Each bill’s path from introduction to passage was tracked and the generation of information sources noted in the Congress in which it was passed.  Sources that may have emerged in prior Congresses were also noted.  The databases used to collect information were Congress.gov, the “official website for U.S. federal legislative information” and Proquest Congressional, a popular commercial database for federal legislative information.  The end goal was to find when and where legislative information was produced with during a law’s passage and whether or not this occurred where a legislative history researcher would expect to find it.   

Review of this data is continuing and the results are still preliminary.

This research was funded through a generous grant by AALL.

Congress Legislative History Spreadsheets

Fields:

Public Law Number: Public law number for the law passed.

Name of Legislation:  Name of legislation as listed on Congress.gov.

Bill Signed Into Law: Number of bill that was eventually passed into law.

Chamber Origin of Law:  

HPB: Bill that passed into law originated in House.

SPB: Bill that passed into law originated in Senate.

Policy Area:  Descriptive term for the overall topic of the bill passed into law as assigned in Congress.gov.

Counted/Not Counted:  The legislative history of bills passed into law were counted in this study if they were "substantive laws."   Substantive laws are defined as any which add to, subtract from or otherwise amend U.S. Code; authorize or appropriate significant amount of funds; or make substantive or significant change in policy.  It also excludes those bills that are solely commemorative or have no other real or potential significant effects, e.g. the naming of post offices or other federal buildings.

C: Counted.

NC: Not counted.

Appropriations Status:  Bill passed into law was one of the types of appropriations bills listed below.

CONT: Continuing resolution.

OMNI: Omnibus.

SING: Single.  One of the 12 regular bills used to fund parts of the government.

SUPP: Supplemental.

Short Titles:  Number of short titles identified in Congress.gov.

Short Titles, Different Topics:  Short titles with different subjects than overall bill passed into law.

 

 

Thanks

Special thanks go to Margaret Wood and Jim Martin at the Law Library of Congress for their incredible knowledge.  Thanks as well to the student workers who assisted with the project, especially Matthew Reese and Marisabel Alonso.

Faculty Scholarship Librarian & Legal Research Instructor