General Legal & Policy Research
Federal Legislative Information
What: Thomas, an online resource of the Library of Congress, provides comprehensive public access to federal legislative information, bill status, text and summary; Congressional debate schedules, votes and voting records; Congressional Committee reports, homepages, and votes. Additionally, users are provided links to several other useful sites. For detailed background information see the About Thomas link and for further detail on Thomas's technical search capabilities.
How to search: Research on Thomas may be completed in several ways, depending on the type of information sought. Below you will find descriptions of some of the more common research tools:
- Quick Bill Text Search (located on top of main Thomas page) - If users already know the number of the bill, they may obtain the text of current legislation by entering the number of the bill. If unknown, users may search by keyword or phrase, which will produce a list of bills related to that keyword or phrase.
- Bill Summary and Status - Provides users with detailed information on bill status (links to Congressional Record pages, votes), committees, amendments, and related bill details. Search methods include: word/phrase, subject term, bill/amendment number, stage in legislative process, date of introduction, sponsor/cosponsor, and committee.
- Bill Text - Offering more search tools than the Quick Bill Text Search, users may search current year or past legislative bills by bill number, word/phrase, date/session and words in the index.
- Public Laws - Permits users to find current or past legislation by the Public Law Number. Includes bills of both houses of Congress and Joint Resolutions.
- The Congressional Record - The daily proceedings of Congress is organized by date, part, or section of the record. Users may access information on the current Congressional Record, or may search current and past Congressional records by text search, index, or by roll call votes.
- Committee Reports - Users may search Congressional Committee Reports for the current and past Congresses by report number, bill number, committee name, word/phrase, date, or words in index. Alternatively, users may list the Committee Reports of the House, Senate, Conference, or Joint Committees. In addition, users may access House or Senate Committee Web sites.
- Congressional Schedules - This set of links provides users with up-to-date information on the current proceedings, the weekly schedule in the House, and the weekly schedule in the Senate.
Helpful hints: When entering bill numbers in the Quick Bill Text search window, enter House bills with the letter "HB", followed by the bill number, and Senate bills with the letter "S" followed by the bill number. The "words in the index" search function found in the Bill Text, Bill Summary and Status, and the Committee Report search methods, is an extremely useful tool. The "words in the index" function provides all the bills and committee reports related to a specific word or phrase. This function works best when beginning your research without specific bill information available. Please note that only a portion of the valuable information available to researchers on Thomas has been described. Further review of this Web site will be beneficial for future research.
Last updated: Thomas makes information available as soon as the Government Printing Office (GPO) provides it to the Library of Congress. Updates of legislation text files occur throughout the day.
Other Web sites: Thomas is the most comprehensive online legislative information research Web site. The following sites will provide only portions of the information available on Thomas: