Citing Bills

Database Information

This database contains acts, bills, and resolutions introduced in the House and Senate. As each act, bill, or resolution is introduced, it is assigned a unique number that allows researchers to track how the legislation changes during the legislative process. In order to cite legislation, it is important to understand how bills are numbered and where to find the bill title.

How bills are numbered

Acts, bills, and resolutions are assigned a unique number that acts as an identifying number for that legislation. This number stays with the legislation through the entire Congress. This number has three parts:

  • A sequential number assigned when the legislation is first introduced in the House or Senate. When a new Congress convenes, numbering of legislation begins with "1" and continues sequentially until the close of that Congress.
  • An abbreviation preceding the sequential number to indicate the Chamber of origin and type of legislation (that is, H.R. for House bills, H. Res. for House Resolutions, S. for Senate bills)
  • The number of the Congress (for example, 101st Congress)

All three parts the number of the Congress (101st), the legislative Chamber and type abbreviation (H.R., S., etc.), and the sequentially assigned number must be supplied in the citation to link it to the text of a specific piece of legislation. For example, the 106th Congress would have both an S. 1 and an H.R. 1 and the 107th Congress would also have both an S. 1 and an H.R. 1. No committee information is required; all legislation is issued by the entire congressional Chamber, not by a committee. The congressional session number (1st or 2nd) can also be omitted.

The bill title

The exact title of a bill may be difficult to determine. You may use the title given in the synopsis ("An Act To Restore the American Family, Enhance Support ") or the popular or "short" title given in the first section of the bill text ("This act may be cited as the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1995 "). When the title is lengthy, you may abbreviate it, giving a portion sufficient to distinguish the bill from another with a similar subject. Use an ellipsis (...) to show the title is abbreviated.

For each citation, include:

  • Either "U.S. Senate" or "U.S. House" and the Congress number, to distinguish bills with the same bill number introduced in each Chamber and in different Congresses
  • Bill number (must be preceded by an abbreviation H.R., H.Res., S., S.J.Res., etc.) and the title (see discussion above)
  • Version number and version date many bills go through many versions and each may be distinctly different in wording and content. The original version of a bill is always labeled "Version 1". Each version constitutes a separate document.
  • Database name (Text from: Full Text of Bills)
  • Web service name (Available from: ProQuest® Congressional)
  • Date accessed by the user (Accessed: date)

For example:

  • U.S. House. 104th Congress. "H.R. 3, A Bill To Control Crime." (Version: 1; Version Date: 2/9/93). Text from: Full Text of Bills. Available from: ProQuest® Congressional; Accessed: 7/04/05).
  • U.S. Senate. 104th Congress. "S. 4, An Act To Give the President Line Item Veto." (Version: 6; Version Date: 3/29/96). Text from: Full Text of Bills. Available from: ProQuest® Congressional; Accessed: 7/04/05.

Bills with excessively long titles

When the title is lengthy, abbreviate it, giving a portion sufficient to distinguish the bill from another with a similar subject. Use an ellipsis (...) to show the title is abbreviated.

For example:

U.S. House. 104th Congress. "H.R. 399: A Bill To Establish a Single, Consolidated Source of Federal Child Care Funding ." (Version: 2; Version Date: 3/12/95). Text from: Full Text of Bills. Available from: ProQuest® Congressional; Accessed: 02/15/01.

Bills without titles

Some bills will have neither a synopsis nor a popular title. In this case, the bill number and Congress provide enough information to locate the bill text.

For example:

U.S. House. 104th Congress. "H. Res. 222."(Version: 2; Version Date: 9/20/95). Text from: Full Text of Bills. Available from: ProQuest® Congressional; Accessed: 08/03/03.

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