In a nutshell, Congress passes a bill, it’s signed by the President, assigned a Public Law Number by the Office of Federal Register (most laws are “Public Laws” — i.e. they affect all citizens), and then published chronologically in the United States Statutes at Large (a.k.a. Session Laws).
But wait—aren’t Federal Laws found by subject in the United States Code? Indeed they are, but not immediately upon passage. Under 2 U.S.C.§ 285b, the U.S. House of Representatives, Office of the Law Revision Counsel (“OLRC”) classifies newly enacted laws (general and permanent laws) by subject matter and publishes the U.S. Code. Often a public law relates to many different Code chapters and titles.
The OLRC website is a useful resource for statutory information. It includes (in Beta Version):
- U.S. Code: Browse by title; search by keyword, title, section, and sub-parts
- Cite-Checker: Enter title and section to find a law’s catchline (heading), public law numbers, and editorial notes
- U.S. Preliminary Code: Search Code provisions in “an advance posting of the next online version of the United States Code”
- Statutes at Large Table (“Table III Tool”): Cross reference Public Law numbers with corresponding Code provisions (1789- )
- Overview of the U.S. Code Classification: Find general information about the Code, currency, updating, and the classification process