How a Bill Becomes a Law

The Process of Doing so in the U.S Congress

Steps to a Law

1. Someone gets an idea for a bill- ideas can come from private citizens, interest groups, officials in the executive branch, or the president

2. Bill gets introuduced to Congress- only a member in Congress can do so, and submits it to the House or Senate

3. Bill is given a title and number- the bill is assigned a number that begins with either H.R. for House of Representatives, or S. for Senate, and then sent to the appropiate committee

4. This gets sent to standing committee- they decide whether to schedule a bill for discussion, or whether to stop action on a bill deemed unnecessary or wise, in which the bill would die, or simply kill it with majority vote; they can also mark the bill with changes and suggest it be passed, or replace it with a new bill

5. Congressional members where the bill is introduced debate- date is set for discussion, a time limit is set for how long a member may speak (usually 1-5 min.), first a member for the bill speaks, then a member that is against, riders may be attached, debate may be endeed by a simple majority vote; after this debate, amendments may be suggested/debated in the same matter, finally the bill is put to vote

6. Voting in Congress- both House and Senate must pass similar forms of the bill, if passed in only one side, it is then sent to the other side for debate, amendments and a vote, after both sides have passed similar bills, these are then sent to the conference committee where the differences are discussed and the bill is re-written in a way they think both sides will agree on, this is then voted on; afer the re-written bill is passed, a report is written containing the re-written bill and how the differences between the two bills was worked out and is sent to the House for a vote, if this is passed it is then sent to the Senate, if both House and Senate don't pass the bill, it dies; if it is passed it gets sent to the President

7. The President- 4 options are available: the first is that he can sign the bill into law; the second is that he can let it sit on his desk for 10 days with Congress still in session in which it becomes a law; the third is that he can choose not to sign it, however if 2/3 of both House and Senate vote on it, the bill can still become a law; the fourth is that if after 10 days, he still hasn't signed it and Congress is no longer in session, the bill doesn't become a law


riders- a provision on a subject other than the one covered in the bill

pigeonholing- the committee can ignore the bill and simply let it die

filibuster- senator talks until a majority either abandons the bill or agrees to modify it, can be ended if 3/5 vote for a cloture

roll-call vote- senators respond "aye" or "no" as their names are called in alphabetical order, these are recorded

pocket veto- when 10 days has passed without Congress in session and the bill remains unsigned, thus killing it

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