Researching federal legislation using Congress.gov
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Researching federal legislation using Congress.gov


Hi everyone, my name is Beth Cook and I am
the librarian for PS, PA and PP at APUS. Our topic today is researching federal legislation.
To locate federal legislation, you will want to use the website Congress.gov. Congress.gov
is the new official resource for federal legislation. It is replacing a website called Thomas that
you might have used or heard about. To get to Congress.gov, the web address is
just as you’d suspect—www.congress.gov. When you get to the main page, the search
box at the top center is where you can type in either some keywords related to your topic,
or the bill number if you are looking for a specific bill.
For example, if I wanted to see all the bills in this congress that have been introduced
related to the keystone pipeline, I could just type in keystone pipeline. It is good
to put an exact phrase like this in quotation marks. It will improve the accuracy of your
results. Notice on the left of the search box it says
“current legislation”. If you leave it as is, it will only search for bills in the
current, 114th congress. If you need to search further back in time,
make sure and use the drop-down menu on the left to change the search to look for older
bills. If you know the exact bill number you need,
you can simply type in either S or HR and then the bill number. No punctuation is needed.
For example, you could search for S1 and that will pull up the Keystone pipeline improvement
act. Now that you have run a search and hopefully
found a bill of interest, click on the title. This will take you to full information about
the bill. Look for where it says “tracker” under
the bill title in the first white box. You will see the current status of the bill highlighted
in grey. In the bill I am viewing, S1, it shows that the bill failed to pass over veto.
A summary of the bill, the full-text of the bill in text or PDF format, actions, amendments
co-sponsors and more is included on this page. If you want to see everything that has happened
to this bill since introduction, click on the ACTIONS tab.
It defaults to showing you only major actions, like passage of the bill. If you want every
detail about the bill, like votes and discussion in the Congressional Record, click the radio
button on the left that says “all actions”. If you prefer to browse bills by subject area.
Here is how to do that. From the main congress.gov homepage, look in the upper left-hand corner.
Click the BROWSE link. Then, look for the link that says, BILLS by
SUBJECT—Policy area and click on that, then select your subject area
of interest, such as energy or health. That is an overview of some basic searching
for legislation. If you want to do some more advanced searching and need assistance, please
contact me, Beth Cook, your librarian at [email protected]

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