Let’s explain the basics. What’s a bill? It’s somebody’s proposal for a future law that is brought to the responsible party (aka a legislative body) for a review. Before being accepted, such a proposal goes through an extensive list of processes and reviews, and only after that, it may become a law. By making it a law, the government has to carry out its enforcement.
How a Bill Becomes a Law: Process Description
Who can propose a bill? Any member of Congress can, whether they are from the Senate or the House of Representatives. If a citizen wants their idea to become a bill, they need to contact their Representative. Each bill has a “sponsor” – the primary Congress member who is supporting it.
After that comes the introduction phase. A Representative introduces the bill they “sponsor” in the House; if the “sponsor” is a Senator, they do it in the Senate. Some particularly essential bills, such as the annual federal budget, are traditionally introduced by a member of the Cabinet or by the President.
After the introduction, the Committee reviews the bill. Representatives or Senators hold meetings to discuss, research, and revise the bill. The Committee is also able to “ban” the bill they render unnecessary at this phase, in which case it doesn’t go anywhere further and “dies.” After the review, the Committee writes reports with recommendations, and the bill is sent (aka “reported”) back to the “floor” – a formal session held by the full Senate or House – for debate.
Sometimes, a Sub-committee is formed to ensure that a bill is reviewed and discussed in full detail, with specialists in the given field invited to give their opinions on the question.
Once the bill is reported to the floor, the members of the full chamber debate and discuss it, giving their reasons for or against it. The necessity to introduce any further amendments or subtractions is also explored at this phase. The bill is then voted to be passed or “killed.”
Once the bill is passed in one Chamber, it is referred for a review to the other Chamber. It usually goes through the same stages: a review by a committee or committees and a final decision by the floor. Sometimes, the bill is not approved as received but could be changed, ignored, or rejected by the other Chamber. In this case, the bill is reviewed by the members from the Senate and the House of Representatives. The procedure helps to resolve any conflicting issues and reach a consensus.
If the Conference Committee reaches an agreement, they prepare a conference report with comments and recommendations for the final version of the bill. Both of the chambers need to vote to approve the conference report. After the debate, the final version of the bill is agreed upon and voted on.
The last phase of a bill becoming a law is when it’s sent to the President for a review. In brief, the President has three possible options of what to do with the bill:
- First, they can approve it and sign it, after which the bill becomes law.
- Second, they can ignore (aka “pocket veto”) it, and after ten days pass while Congress is in session, the bill becomes law. If Congress goes out of session in the following ten days after the President chooses to ignore the bill, it does not become law. The pocket veto can not be overridden.
- Third, they can “veto” the bill and return it to Congress with their comments and reasons for doing it. It’s possible to override the veto: if both the Senate and the House vote on the bill to pass by a two-thirds majority, the bill becomes law.
How Does a Bill Become a Law: FAQ
❓ How does a bill become a law step by step?
- A bill is introduced in the House or Senate.
- A Committee reviews it to discuss, research, and make changes.
- The bill is voted on by the full Chamber.
- The bill is passed from the original Chamber to the other Chamber for review.
- Once both Chambers vote to accept it, they present it to the President.
- The President either approves or vetoes it.
- Their veto can be overridden unless it's a pocket veto.
❓ What is the goal of the lawmaking process?
❓ What is constitutional law?
Constitutional law also refers to citizens' fundamental rights, such as free speech, civil rights, right to protest, etc.
❓ How to make a bill?
- Choose the bill type: private or public. Who do you want to be affected by the law?
- Title the bill. Usually, bill titles begin with an infinitive. The title describes the purpose of the bill.
- Choose a Chamber. Where does the bill originate? From the Senate or the House of Representatives?
- Choose a sponsor. Who will present your bill to the Chamber members?
❓ How to pass a bill?
- The House or Senate drafts, sponsors, and introduces a bill.
- A committee reviews the bill.
- The bill is sent to the floor to be reviewed by the full House or Senate.
- The bill is voted on.
- The bill is reviewed by both the House and Senate.
- The bill is reviewed by the President.
- The law is created.