The Process of a Bill Becoming a Law
Congress, the legislative branch of the United States government is responsible for making laws for our country. As the U.S. Constitution states in Article 1, Section 1, “All Legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.” There are two legislative bodies of Congress: The U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Members of both bodies of the legislative branch can propose new legislation that they seek to put into place. This new legislation that a Congressmen proposes is called a bill (USAGov, 2020).
The laws made by Congress begin first as only ideas. A Congressmen that seeks to have a law passed first sponsors the bill. This bill is then assigned to a Congressional committee (USAGov, 2020) There are numerous Congressional committees that cover many different arenas of laws and politics. There are specific Congressional committees assigned to each body of Congress. Examples of Congressional committees assigned to the House of Representatives such as Agriculture, Armed Services, Ethics, Budget, and Ways and Means. Congressional committees assigned to the House of Senate include Energy and Natural Resources, Environment and Public Works, Rules and Administration. Members of the assigned committee then will research, discuss, and make changes to the bill as they see fit (USAGov, 2020). If the bill is agreed upon by the Committee, the bill can be put on a calendar to be debated, amended, or voted on (United States House of Representatives, 2020).
If the bill passes one body of Congress, it will then go through a similar process of what it went through in the other body. If both bodies vote to pass the bill, both bodies have to come to a consensus about the two different versions of the bill. This is done by a conference committee made up of both members of the House and Senate. The House and the Senate must vote on the same exact version of the bill (USAGov, 2020). In order for the bill to pass Congress, a majority of Congress, 51 out of 100 members must vote for the law to be passed. The final bill then returns to both the House and Senate for its last approval before being printed by the Government Printing Office prints the bill, where the process of enrolling begins (United States House of Representatives, 2020). An enrolled bill is the form of a proposed bill that has been agreed upon by both a majority of members of the House and the Senate (Heitshusen, 2015).
Once the bill is agreed upon by both bodies of Congress, the bill is then presented to the president. The president has ten days to review the bill Congress presents to him or her. The president, granted by the Article II of the Constitution, can either approve the bill to become a law or veto the bill. A veto is a procedure in which the president does not approve a bill, preventing it from becoming a law (United States Senate, 2020). If the president does veto a bill, Congress has the power to override the president’s veto. They can do this by passing the act with a two-thirds majority vote by members of both the House and the Senate.
There are many long and sometimes difficult steps for a proposed bill to become a law. Especially in today’s political climate, it can be hard for a bill to even see the light of day past the member that drafts it. With so much animosity and division, bills that might reflect the ideals of one party over another, may not even be considered to enter the process of becoming a law. It is important that ideas that could potentially better our nation be implemented into our system.
Heitshusen, Valerie. “Enrollment of Legislation: Relevant Congressional Procedures.” Congressional Research Service , October 14, 2015.
“How Laws Are Made: USAGov.” How Laws Are Made | USAGov. Accessed May 28, 2020. https://www.usa.gov/how-laws-are-made.
“The Legislative Process.” The Legislative Process | House.gov. Accessed May 28, 2020. https://www.house.gov/the-house-explained/the-legislative-process.
Feature Image 1873 Senate Chamber courtesy Brady-Handy Photograph Collection (Library of Congress), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons