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The legislative process in Congress is initiated by the introduction of a proposal in one of four forms: the bill, the joint resolution, the concurrent resolution, and the simple resolution. The most customary form used in both chambers is the bill.
House bills (H.R.) and Senate bills (S.) require the approval of both chambers (i.e., House and Senate) and the signature of the president to become law. Bills from each house are assigned a number in the order in which they are introduced, starting at the beginning of each Congress. Public bills pertain to matters that affect the general public or classes of citizens, while private bills pertain to matters that affect individuals and organizations, such as claims against the government.
House Joint Resolutions (H.J. Res.) and Senate Joint Resolutions (S.J. Res.) also require the approval of both chambers and the signature of the president, and are also numbered in the order in which they are introduced in each house. There is no real difference between a bill and a joint resolution. Joint resolutions are generally used for limited matters, such as a single appropriation for a specific purpose, or a proposed amendment to the Constitution. A joint resolution has the force of law, if approved. Proposed constitutional amendments become a part of the Constitution when three-quarters of the states have ratified them; they do not require the President's signature.
House Concurrent Resolutions (H. Con. Res.) and Senate Concurrent Resolutions (S. Con. Res.) require the approval of both chambers, but do not require the signature of the president and do not have the force of law. Concurrent resolutions generally are used to make or amend rules that apply to both chambers. They are also used to express the sentiments of both of the houses. For example, a concurrent resolution is used to set the time that Congress adjourns. A concurrent resolution may also be used by Congress to convey congratulations to another country on the anniversary of its independence.
House Simple Resolutions (H. Res.) and Senate Simple Resolutions (S. Res.) address matters entirely within the prerogative of one chamber or the other. They do not require the approval of the other chamber or the signature of the president, and they do not have the force of law. Most simple resolutions concern the rules of one house. They are also used to express the sentiments of a single house. For example, a simple resolution may offer condolences to the family of a deceased member of Congress, or it may give "advice" on foreign policy or other executive business.
There are numerous different versions that a bill may take as it wends its way through the legislative process from introduction through passage by both chambers (enrolled version). All final published bill versions are available from GPO.
Bills and Resolutions (1963–1978)
Call Number Y2.[CONG.-SESS.]:[BILL]
[Request from Remote Storage]
U.S. Congressional Bills and Resolutions (1789–1913)
Call Number Y2.[CONG.]:
Shelved in microfilm cabinets on Third Floor Willis Library
Bills and Resolutions (1999–2000)
Shelved in microfiche cabinets 30 and 31 on Third Floor Willis Library
Digest of Public Bills and Resolutions (1943–1990)
In Government Documents, Third Floor Willis Library, Call Number LC 14.6:
Documents Department Off-Site Storage List by Call Numbers (1963–1978)
At Government Documents Service Desk, Third Floor Willis Library, Call Number SV1