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LSP -- Government Documents: Congressional Documents

Congressional Documents

From introducing a bill to passing a public law is a long, convoluted process.

A bill (proposed law) (H.R.__ / S.__) is introduced into the “hopper” (literally, a box in the House or Senate chamber)

It is then referred to the appropriate committee.

There, the bill will either "die" or move forward.

Committees prepare reports (H.Rpt.__ / S. Rpt.__) as they analyze the pros and cons of the bills.

Sometimes they will hold hearings to discuss the bill further, inviting experts to "testify" for or against the proposed legislation.

The committee might then refer the bill "out of committee" to the floor for a vote (or not).

The bill might be debated on the floor of the House and Senate, and this debate is captured in the Congressional Record (Cong. Rec.).

The bill goes to a roll-call vote in either the House or the Senate. If it passes that body, it must go to the other body for passage. Sometimes, the other body doesn’t agree and the bill must be reconciled. New versions of the bill may be created.

Eventually, if a bill passes both the House and Senate, it is sent to the President to sign or veto. If the President signs, it becomes a Public Law (P.L. or Pub.L.)

Each of these steps generates a government document (and, in many cases, a number of them).

More recent legislation, and more well-known legislation, is often easy to find, but it’s often more difficult to find older or less well-known pieces of legislation (or attempted legislation) or to see how a piece of legislation came into being – the reports, testimony, debates and compromises along the way.

That’s where the library comes in.



From the library homepage, find and open the online version of the Congressional Almanac.

Under “Policy Tracker,” (left-hand sidebar menu) select Medicare and Medicaid.


When was the Medicare law first enacted? ____

What is the Public Law (PL) number? ____

Can you find the text of the law? (Hint: Check the “Legislative History” head notes)  

Can you find any of the debate? (Hint: Open records for Congressional Record entries. Scroll through and look for the term debated)

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