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How a Bill Becomes a Law
Transcript of How a Bill Becomes a Law
How a Bill Becomes a Law (The Legislative Process)
A Bill is Introduced
Bills may be suggested by citizens, interest groups, and the president, but only members of Congress may introduce legislation.
A bill may be introduced in either houses (except for tax).
All House and Senate bills are labeled and numbered for identification. (ex: HR.1234 or S.355)
There are six main steps before a bill becomes a law.
Bill is referred to a specific standing committee, which may be sent to a subcommittee for review.
Committee or subcommittee hearings are held in order to hear from supporters and opponents of the bill.
After the hearing and the subcommittee approves a bill, the bill goes through a process called markup where exact phrasing of the bill is decided. They go through line by line to decide the specific features of a bill.
After markup, bill must be approved by the full committee before it moves to the floor.
A bill that fails to be approved dies in committee.
Floor Debates and Votes
Both the House and the Senate have standard operating rules that guide procedures for the passage of a bill (ex: voting, orders of business, timing)
In the House - 3 main types of rules:
Open - allows representatives to propose any amendments that relate to the subject of the bill
Closed - prohibits amendments altogether
Modified - determines that some parts of the bill may be amended, but not others.
In the Senate
Rules more flexible
No time limit spent on debating a bill
No limit on the number and kind of amendments that may be offered.
After all floor debate, congress members vote and bill must pass with a
Bill Sent to the Other Chamber
Once the bill is sent to the other chamber, it follows the same route through committee and floor actions.
This chamber may approve the bill as received, reject it, ignore it, or amend it before passing it.
If only minor changes are made to a bill by the other chamber, usually the legislation goes back to the originating chamber for a concurring vote.
However, when the House and Senate versions of the bill contain significant and/or numerous differences, a conference committee is officially appointed to reconcile the differences between the two different versions into a single bill.
If the conferees are unable to reach agreement, the legislation dies.
If agreement is reached, a conference report is prepared describing the committee members' recommendations for changes. Both the House and the Senate must approve of the conference report. If either chamber rejects the conference report, the bill dies.
House Standing Committee
Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
Commerce, Science and Transportation
Energy and Natural Resources
Environment and Public Works
Finance Foreign Relations
Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions
Rules and Administration
Small Business and Entrepreneurship
Senate Standing Committee
Education and the Workforce
Energy and Commerce
Live Capitol Hearings http://www.capitolhearings.org/
Important key term:
filibuster - an effort by one or more senators to hold up the final vote on a bill through delaying tactics (ex: nonstop speech-making)
Filibuster only happens in the SENATE and is done usually to allow an intense minority to block the actions of the majority.
Video clip: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=697117n
After the conference report has been approved by both the House and Senate, the final bill is sent to the President.
If the President approves, he signs it and it becomes law.
If the President does not take action for ten days while Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law.
If the President opposes the bill he can veto it; or, if he takes no action after the Congress has adjourned its second session, it is a "pocket veto" and the legislation dies.
President Obama signs bill to expand Veteran Benefits (at 10:07)
To override the President's veto, Congress needs a 2/3 vote of its members.
(22 standing committees)
(16 standing committees)