The Regulatory Process: Home

This guide traces the process by which a law is executed by regulations in the United States and contains information on how to locate current and historical publications relating to the U.S. federal regulatory process


Welcome to the subject guide for the regulatory process. This guide contains information on how to locate current and historical publications relating to the federal regulatory process. 

The federal regulatory process involves all three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial) but this guide will cover only the executive and legislative branches.  A "map" of the regulatory process is below. Here is an index of U.S. government departments and agencies.

Congress passes a law, but often it cannot describe every detail of the implementation of that law. Instead, it authorizes various executive departments and agencies to write the rules and regulations which implement the law. Congress specifies the broad area of regulation, but the executive agency is responsible for filling in the specifics, proposing regulations and advancing them through the rulemaking process. 

The rulemaking process is mandated by the Administrative Procedure Act and includes what is called a “notice & comment” period, when rules are proposed, the public is given notice and an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules, and then the rules are finalized and published in the Government Publishing Office’s

  • Federal Register (the official daily publication for rules, proposed rules, and notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents)

and in the

  • Code of Federal Regulations (CFR)(the codification of the general and permanent rules published in the Federal Register by the departments and agencies of the federal government).

The agencies then administer the regulations.


Government Information Librarian

Lehman Social Sciences Library

Note on restricted resources.

This is a selective guide to resources, at Columbia University Libraries and on the Internet, for conducting research on the U.S. federal budget process. In addition to the links in this guide, search the Columbia Library catalog for U.S. Government Documents for publications and filter your search for precise results. Catalog call numbers are provided for text and microfiche resources.

Some resources are restricted to Columbia affiliates.

Page edited and updated by Julia Robbins, September 2015.