How does a bill become a law?
The Bill Begins
Laws begin as ideas.
The Bill Is Proposed
The Bill Is Introduced
A bill is introduced when it is placed in the hopper—a special box on the side of the clerk’s desk. Only Representatives can introduce bills in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Bill Goes to Committee
The Bill Is Reported
When the committee has approved a bill, it is sent to the House floor. Once reported, a bill is ready to be debated by the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Bill Is Debated
When a bill is debated, Representatives discuss the bill and explain why they agree or disagree with it. Then, a reading clerk reads the bill section by section and the Representatives recommend changes. When all changes have been made, the bill is ready to be voted on.
The Bill Is Voted On
- Viva Voce (voice vote): The Speaker of the House asks the Representatives who support the bill to say “aye” and those that oppose it say “no.”
- Division: The Speaker of the House asks those Representatives who support the bill to stand up and be counted, and then those who oppose the bill to stand up and be counted.
- Recorded: Representatives record their vote using the electronic voting system. Representatives can vote yes, no, or present (if they don’t want to vote on the bill).
The Bill Is Referred to the Senate
When a bill reaches the U.S. Senate, it goes through many of the same steps it went through in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill is discussed in a Senate committee and then reported to the Senate floor to be voted on.
The Bill Is Sent to the President
- Sign and pass the bill, becomes a law.
- Refuse to sign, or veto, the bill is sent back to the U.S. House of Representatives, along with the President’s reasons for the veto. If the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate still believe the bill should become a law, they can hold another vote on the bill. If two-thirds of the Representatives and Senators support the bill, the President’s veto is overridden and the bill becomes a law.
- Do nothing (pocket veto)—if Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law after 10 days. If Congress is not in session, the bill does not become a law.