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How a Federal Bill Becomes a Law (Or Not)

Anyone may draft a bill, but only members of Congress can introduce legislation, and by doing so become the sponsor(s). There are four basic types of legislation: bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, and simple resolutions. The official legislative process begins when a bill or resolution is numbered. H.R. signifies House Bill and S. a Senate Bill? Referred to a committee and printed by the Government Printing Office.

1. Referral to Committee

With few exceptions, bills are referred to standing committees in the House or Senate according to carefully outlined procedural rules.

2. Committee Consideration

committees specialize in different areas, such as foreign relations or agriculture, and are made up of small groups of senators or representatives. When a bill reaches a committee it is placed on the committee’s calendar. A bill can be referred to a subcommittee or considered by the committee as a whole. At this point the bill is carefully reviewed and its chances for passage are determined. If the committee does not act on a bill, it is the equivalent of killing it.

3. Subcommittee Review

bills are often referred to a sub committee for study and hearings. Hearings provide the opportunity to put on the record the views of the executive branch, experts, other public officials, supporters and opponents of the legislation.

4. Mark up

After hearings are completed, the subcommittee may meet to “mark up” the bill, that is, make changes and amendments before they recommend the bill to the full committee. If a subcommittee votes not to report legislation to the full committee, the bill dies.

5. Committee Action to Report a Bill

after receiving a subcommittee’s report on a bill, the full committee can conduct further study and hearings, or it can vote on the subcommittee’s recommendations and any proposed amendments.
The full committee then votes on its recommendation to the House or Senate. This procedure is referred to as “ordering a bill reported.”

6. Publication of Committee Report

Once a bill has been reported, the committee chairman instructs staff to prepare a written report about the bill. This published report will include the purpose of the bill, its impact ton existing, laws, budgetary considerations, and any new taxes or tax increases that will be required by the bill. Additionally, the report includes the position of the executive branch, as well as the views of dissenting members of the committee.

7. Floor Action Legislative Calendar

After a bill is reported back to the house of origin (House or Senate), it is placed in chronological order on the legislative calendar for “floor action” or debate before the full membership. In the house there are several different legislative calendars, and the Speaker and the majority leader largely determine if, when. And in what order bills come up. In the Senate there is only one legislative calendar.

8. Debate

Debate for and against the bill proceeds according to the rules of the House or Senate.

9. Voting

Once debate has ended and any amendments to the bill have been approved, the full membership will vote for or against the bill.

10.Bill Referred to Other Chamber

Bills approved by one chamber of Congress (House or Senate) are now sent to the other chamber where it usually follows the same route through committee and floor action. The chamber may approve the bill as received, reject it, ignore it or change it.

11.Conference Committee Action

If only minor changes are made to a bill by the other chamber, it is common for the legislation to go back to the first chamber for concurrence. However, if the second chamber changes a bill significantly, a “conference committee” made up of members of both chambers will be formed to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions. If the committee cannot agree the bill simply dies. If the committee does agree on a compromise version of the bill, a cconference report is prepared describing the committee members.

12. Final Actions

After a bill has been approved by both the House and the Senate in identical form, it is sent to the President. If the President approves of the legislation he signs it and it becomes law. The President can also take no action on the bill for ten days while congress is in session and the bill will automatically become law. If the President opposes the bill, he can veto it. If the President takes no action on the bill for ten days after Congress has adjourned their second session, the bill
dies. This action is called a “pocket veto”

13. Overriding a Veto

If the President vetoes a bill, Congress mat attempt to “override the veto” This requires a two thirds roll call vote of the members who are present in sufficient numbers for a quorum.

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