The Legislative Process: Home

Note on restricted access.

This is a selective guide to resources at Columbia University Libraries and on the Internet, for conducting research on the U.S. Federal legislative process. Most of the items included are available in Lehman Library. Some resources are restricted to Columbia affiliates.


Welcome to the subject guide for the legislative process, which traces the process by which a bill becomes a law in the United States.  This guide contains information on how to locate current and historical publications relating to the U.S. federal legislative process.  In addition to the links in this guide, search the Columbia University Library catalog for U.S. Government Documents for publications and filter your search for precise results. Some catalog links are provided.

The legislative process begins with a proposed bill's introduction in Congress and (sometimes) ends with its codification into U.S. law. The general workflow for this process is shown in the chart below.


The way a bill becomes law can be complicated. It can vary from bill to bill, and may involve several versions of a bill in both houses, committee hearings, floor debate, reports, and floor votes all along the way. The process sometimes results in law, often not.

The House and Senate have different procedural rules for the ways legislation is processed. See Senate Manual, the Rules of the Senate, this story about the “secret” U.S. Senate Handbook with links, and the Congressional Research Service Report 96-548: “The Legislative Process on the Senate Floor: An Introduction;”  see also the U.S. House of Representatives Members’ Congressional Handbook and the Rules of the House of Representatives