Building a law in the U.S Congress

Livia Morris and Alexis Baum


Every bill has to start off with an idea that comes from private citizens, the White House, or from special-interest groups. The idea for the bill has to be introduced on the floor before the Congress will even consider it. In the House of Representatives the clerk will drop a bill in the hopper. Then, it is given a HR number.

When a bill is submitted to the Senate, the senator announces the bill on the floor and is given a S number.

Committee Action

After the bill is introduced, it's sent to the appropriate standing committee. These standing committees have life and death power over the bills. This means they can pass the bill, mark up a bill with changes and suggest it be passed, replace it with a new bill, pigeonhole it by ignoring it and letting it die, or just outright kill the bill by majority vote.

  • In the House, it is referred to the House standing committee. Then it is referred to House subcommittee. After, it is reported by standing committee and then rules Committee sets rules for debate and amendments.
  • In the Senate, it is referred to the Senate standing committee, then referred to Senate subcommittee and lastly reported by standing committee.

Floor Action

When a bill is approved in a committee it is ready for consideration by the full House or Senate. Here, the pros and cons of the bill and the amendments are discussed.

In the House, they debate and vote on passage. When it's passed, it goes to Senate for approval OR a different version passes and goes to the conference committee.

In the Senate, they debate and vote on a passage. If it passes, it goes to the house for approval OR a different version passes and it goes to the conference committee.

House and Senate

A bill becoming a law can take a very long time!

Conference Action

The conference committee works out differences and sends identical compromise bill to both chambers for final approval.

The House votes on compromise bill.

The Senate votes on compromise bill.


The President signs bill or allows bill to become law without signing. He can keep the bill for 10 days and bill becomes law. If Congress adjourns before the 10 days, Sundays excluded, the bill does not become law.


The President vetoes bill.

The Congress can override a veto by a 2/3 majority in both chambers. If either fails to override, the bill dies.

Rules of Debate ******

In the House, the Rules Committee sets the terms for debate.

It usually puts time limits on the discussion to speed up action.

The Senate because it is smaller, has fewer rules. Senators can speak as long as they wish. At times they take advantage of this custom to filibuster or talk a bill to death. One member can speak- holding the floor for hour after hour, delaying a vote until the bill's sponsor withdraws the measure. The senator can end a filibuster is 3/5 majority vote for cloture Under this procedure, no one may speak for more than one hour. Senators rarely resort to cloture.