- How a bill becomes a law: the process explained
- The three stages of a bill
- How a bill is introduced in Congress
- How a bill is debated and amended in Congress
- How a bill is passed by Congress
- How a bill is sent to the President
- How the President signs or vetoes a bill
- How a bill becomes a law without the President’s signature
- If the President vetoes a bill
- The role of the Supreme Court in the lawmaking process
Have you ever wondered how a law is made? The process may seem daunting, but it’s actually pretty interesting. Check out this blog post to learn more!
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How a bill becomes a law: the process explained
In the United States, the process of making a law starts with an idea. This can come from anyone — a member of Congress, the president, a citizen, or even a interest group. The idea is then turned into a bill, which is a proposal for a new law or a change to an existing one.
A bill must be sponsored by one or more members of Congress before it can be introduced. The sponsor is usually the lawmaker who wrote the bill, but this isn’t always the case. Once a bill is introduced, it is assigned to a committee for review. This is where most bills die, because committees have very limited time and resources. If a bill makes it out of committee, it is then debated and voted on by the full House or Senate.
If both chambers pass the same version of the bill, it goes to the president to be signed into law. If they pass different versions of the bill, it goes to a conference committee made up of members of both chamber to work out the differences. Once they agree on a final version, it goes back to both chambers for another vote. If both chambers pass it again, it goes to the president to be signed into law.
The entire process — from idea to law — can take months or even years.
The three stages of a bill
There are three stages that a bill must go through before it becomes a law. These are known as the first reading, the second reading, and the third reading.
The first reading is when the bill is introduced to Parliament. Parliamentarians will then debate the bill and vote on whether to send it to the second stage.
The second stage is when the bill is debated in detail. Parliamentarians will amendment the bill and vote on whether to send it to the third stage.
The third stage is when the bill is debated and voted on one final time. If it passes, it becomes a law.
How a bill is introduced in Congress
Every bill or joint resolution introduced in Congress is given a number. The bill number comes first, followed by the abbreviation for the chamber where it was introduced. For example, if a bill is numbered H.R. 1, this indicates that it was introduced in the House of Representatives as the first bill of the session. Similarly, if a bill is numbered S. 2, this indicates that it was introduced in the Senate as the second bill of the session.
How a bill is debated and amended in Congress
Every bill that is introduced in Congress goes through a process of debate and amendment before it can become a law. This process can vary depending on whether the bill is being considered by the House of Representatives or the Senate, but there are some general steps that all bills must go through.
First, the bill is assigned to a committee that specializes in the subject matter of the bill. The committee then debates the bill and may make changes to it, known as amendments. Once the committee has finished its work, the bill is then put on the floor of either the House or Senate for debate.
Members of Congress may propose their own amendments to the bill during this floor debate. Once all amendments have been debated and voted on, the final version of the bill is put to a vote by all members of Congress. If the bill passes both houses with a majority vote, it is then sent to the president to be signed into law.
How a bill is passed by Congress
Every year, thousands of bills are introduced in the House and Senate. But only a small fraction of them become law. How does a bill become a law?
First, a bill must be introduced in either the House or the Senate by a member of Congress. The bill is then assigned to a committee, which may hold hearings and debates on the bill before deciding whether to report it back to the full chamber.
If the committee approves the bill, it is then placed on the chamber’s calendar. The chamber may debate and amend the bill before taking a final vote. If the bill passes, it is then sent to the other chamber, where the process begins again.
The final step is for both chambers to pass identical versions of the bill. Once this happens, the bill goes to the president for signature. If the president signs it, then it becomes law.
How a bill is sent to the President
When the House and Senate have both passed a bill, it goes to a conference committee made up of members of both houses. The conference committee resolves any differences between the versions of the bill passed by the two houses.
The conference committee produces a report that explains its actions and is voted on by both the House and the Senate. If both houses approve the report, the bill, including any amendments, goes to the President for his signature.
The President may sign the bill, making it a law. He may also veto it. If he vetoes it, he returns it to Congress with his objections. If Congress does not approve the veto by passing the bill again with a two-thirds vote in both houses, the veto stands and the bill does not become a law.
How the President signs or vetoes a bill
After both the House of Representatives and the Senate have passed a bill, it is sent to the President for signing. If the President approves of the bill, he or she will sign it into law. If the President does not approve of the bill, he or she can veto it.
In order to veto a bill, the President must notify Congress within 10 days (excluding Sundays) after receiving the bill that he or she is vetoing it. The veto message is then sent to the House of Representatives, where it is entered into the Congressional Record.
If two-thirds of both houses of Congress vote to override the President’s veto, the bill becomes a law over the President’s objections.
How a bill becomes a law without the President’s signature
Here’s how a bill becomes a law without the President’s signature.
A bill must be passed by both the House and Senate in identical form and then be presented to the President for his signature. If the President vetoes the bill, it is sent back to Congress with his objections. If two-thirds of both houses of Congress agree to override the veto, the bill becomes a law over the President’s objections.
If the President neither signs nor vetoes a bill within 10 days while Congress is in session, it becomes law without his signature. This situational is called a pocket veto. If Congress adjourns before the 10 days have expired and the President has not signed or vetoed the bill, it does not become law (no pocket veto can occur).
If the President vetoes a bill
The Constitution gives the President 10 days (excluding Sundays) to veto a bill that has been passed by Congress. If the President vetoes the bill, he or she returns it to Congress with a written explanation of the reasons for the veto. The vetoed bill then goes back to the House in which it originated. If two-thirds of the House voted for the bill originally, then they can vote to override the veto and pass the bill into law without the President’s approval. If this happens, the Senate must vote on the override as well. If both houses vote to override, then the veto is overridden and the bill becomes law without Presidential approval.
The role of the Supreme Court in the lawmaking process
The Supreme Court is the highest court in the United States. It is located in Washington, D.C., and consists of nine justices who are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The court hears appeals from lower courts and reviews cases that it believes present important legal questions.
The Supreme Court has the power to declare a law unconstitutional, which means that the law is no longer valid. This power is called judicial review, and it gives the Supreme Court a significant role in the lawmaking process.
When a case comes before the court, each justice reviews the case and writes an opinion. If there is majority agreement among the justices, then the court issues a “decision” which becomes binding precedent in future cases. If there is not majority agreement, then the court issues an “opinion” which serves as guidance for future cases but is not binding precedent.
The Supreme Court hears a small fraction of the cases that are brought to it – usually only those cases that present important legal questions or that lower courts have disagreed on. As a result, the decisions of the Supreme Court can have a significant impact on how laws are interpreted and applied.