How A Bill Becomes A Law

Am. Gov.

1. How does an idea for a bill start, and what happens before its first reading?

An idea for a bill can come from anyone, usually someone from the public or even a member of congress. It is set in motion by a written proposal which is the basis for the bill that outlines what exactly is in the bill, who it benefits, and the anticipated cost of passing the bill into law. The congressional aides are the ones who actually type this up. After it is typed up, the bill needs a sponsor. After it has a sponsor and some representatives in support of it the bill, and has been accepted by the bill clerks, it can be introduced. Now the bill is given a sequential number. A bill proposed in the House begins with "H.R." and a bill introduced in the Senate begins with an "S."

2. What is the role of the committee and what are the different ways they can report a bill?

For The House:

The house's committees consider bills and issues and oversee agencies, programs, and activities within their jurisdictions. There is many different committees, examples are: agriculture, budget, education and work force, foreign affairs, small business. Every time a bill is to be considered, it has to start in one of the many committees.

For The Senate:

The senate divides its tasks among 20 committees, 68 subcommittees, and 4 joint committees. The Senate committee system is similar to the House committee but the Senate committee adopts its own rules which creates many differences among the panels.


Until a report is filed, the bill can go no further. If the bill has been reported by multiple committees, then the printed version can have different type fonts to be able to tell the difference between each committee's amendments.

3. What is debate on the Floor and how does that differ between the House of Representatives and the Senate?

The time when the bill can be debated in chamber is called floor debate. It takes place on the floor of the chamber for both the House and Senate, and all the members are able to discuss the worth of the bill before the vote.

The difference between floor debate in the House and in the Senate is that floor debate is strictly limited in the House, but almost unrestrained in the Senate.

4. What is the role of the conference committee?

The conference committee has a number of different responsibilities. The conference committee oversees the executive branch, decides which bills should be considered by the full Senate, conducts hearings that make information available to the public, and to reconcile differences in bills passed by the House and Senate.

5. How can a president act on a bill?

The president can veto a bill or can approve it by signing it. This is the last step in process of a bill becoming a law.