Old Pueblo Academy

How a Bill Becomes a Law


Introduction


This paper is intended to give the steps from when an idea is conceived, the legislative processes that follow, until it is signed off as a bill. A bill is simply a proposed amendment to repeal an existing law, or to appropriate public money. Three ways in which a law can be initiated: through Congress, Senate or even the House of Representatives. For this particular paper, we will concentrate on the House of Representatives.

The Process


Once a Representative initiates an idea, hence procedure, he automatically becomes the sponsor of the bill. He then forwards it to the clerk of the House or places it in a box referred to as the hopper. The clerk will then give the bill a number with the initials H.R. - for bills originating in the House as opposed to a bill number with ‘S.’ meaning it originated in the Senate.

The Speaker of the House assigns the bill to a committee to study and listen to experts in the respective field before reporting or tabling the bill. If released, the bill goes to the calendar where the House Rules Committee calls for the vote. The bill goes to the floor of the House where upon reading, and amendments proposed, follows the third reading - for the said amendments. Once the bill passes by a simple majority (218 of 435), it moves to Senate.

A senator is recognized as the presiding officer who will then introduce it to Senate. Just like in the House, it is assigned to a standing committee who study it and then release or table it. Once released, it is sent to the floor for consideration where they can vote for it indefinitely until there is no more debate, where it is voted in by a simple majority (51 of 100).

A conference committee, made up of the two Houses, works out the difference between the two bills and then sends it back to the two Houses for final approval. After approval, the introducing House’s clerk signs it, the Speaker, the vice president and finally the president – who can sign or veto it – in that order. If vetoed, two thirds of both Houses can still vote in favor of the bill.