How a Bill Becomes Law - Lewiston School District
How a Bill Becomes Law - Lewiston School District
Congress in Action
I. Congressional leadership: Mostly party
1.The Speaker of the House
• Formal powers:
control over which bills get assigned to which committees.
2.Floor Leader: majority leader. Rounds up votes on
party legislation, schedules bills.
3.Party whips: round up votes, reports views and
complaints back to the leadership.
4.Minority party is also organized (minority leader
prepared to take over if it should win a majority in the
1. Vice president presides over the Senate.
a. Little power or influence in the Senate
b. Votes only to break a tie.
2. The Senate majority leader: the position of real power
a. Rounds up votes, schedules the floor action, and
influences committee assignments.
3. Majority whips
4. Minority Leader and Whips
Congressional caucuses: the informal
organization of Congress
1.Group of members sharing some interest or
characteristic (Black, Hispanic,
2.Strong say in the policy agenda.
II. The committees and subcommittees
Committees dominate the legislative process.
1.Control all policy-making.
2.Control the agenda.
Four types of committees
1.Standing: (most important) permanent subjectmatter.
2.Joint: membership from both Houses. Proactive.
3.Conference: reconcile differences in bills.
Membership from both houses. Reactive.
4.Select: temporary for a specific "select" purpose
The committees at work: legislation and
1. Share the research and development of 11,000
bills per session.
2."marked up" (revised and rewritten) bills
4.oversight: hold executive accountable.
Getting on a committee
1.House 2 committees and 4 subcommittees. Senate
3 committees and 7 subcommittees.
2. Request committees that are important to
3.Every committee includes members from both
4.A majority, as well as its chair, come from the
III. Bill to Law
Types of Bills and Resolutions
1. Bills —proposed laws.
Public bills - entire nation
private - certain persons or places.
2. Joint Resolutions- temporary matters - both houses,
signed by President.
3. Concurrent Resolutions —concerns of both houses - no
4. Resolutions (simple) —either house - house keeping- no
5. Rider- a provision not likely to pass on its own attached to an important measure.
Creating and Introducing Bills
1.Most suggested by the executive branch.
a. influences on Congress.
• 1. direct meetings
• 2. liaison officers
• 3. party's leaders
2. Special interest
3. Private citizens
4. Revenue-raising bills must begin in the House
5. All other bills may be introduced in either chamber.
The First Reading
1. read, numbered, short title, and recorded.
2. Referred to standing committee
3. Committee hearing
4. Referred to sub committee
D. The Bill in Committee
• 1. Most work done in subcommittees.
• 2. Subcommittees complete their work - returns to the full committee.
• 3. Committee options:
a. Report the bill favorably to the full House with a "do pass"
b. Pigeonhole the bill (refuse to report)
• discharge petition enables members to force a bill out of a
c. Report the bill in amended form.
d. Report the bill unfavorably.
f. Report an entirely new bill.
E. Rules and Calendars
• 1. Bill must be placed on one of several calendars, or schedules, for
• 2. Calendars: Lists of business eligible for consideration by legislative
• 3. House Rules Committee
gives each bill a rule (approval to proceed)
Establishes conditions under which a bill can be debated on the floor
• 4. The House Rules Committee can kill a bill even after it has been
recommended by a standing committee by refusing to perform any of
the above. (no discharge)
F. The Bill on the Floor
• 1. Committee of the Whole (House sitting as a large committee of
• 2. Debate — strict rules limit the length of each individual's debate.
• 3. Voting— a bill requires formal House vote.
A quorum (majority of the full membership) is necessary.
• 4. Floor vote may be taken by:
a. Voice votes are the most common.
• Voice vote: members shout "aye" or "no" - chair decides
b. Standing vote (demanded if any member thinks the Speaker has
c. One-fifth of a quorum may demand a teller vote.
d. Roll-call vote (representative's position becomes matter of public
G. Final steps in the House of Representatives
• 1. An approved bill is engrossed
• 2. Read third time, voted on again, and signed by the Speaker.
• 3. Sent to the Senate president.
H. Differences in Senate Bills
• 1. more informal than House
• 2. does not have a committee equivalent to House Rules
• 3. Senate leader controls the flow of bills to committees and floor
• 4. Can set aside formal rules and look at a bill from the
• 6. The Filibuster
a. unlimited debate on bills
• 1. a way to defeat a bill: keep talking until majority of Senate
either abandons bill or agrees to modify the most controversial
• 2. once a Senator has the floor, he/she can stand and talk
• 3. after 3 hours they can talk about anything and even read
aloud from a telephone / recipe book
b. can be stopped by a 3/5's vote for cloture (allows each senator to
speak for only 1 hour on legislation being debated)
Conference Committee if different versions passed
(approved by both houses)
Sent to President
Signs Bill – Becomes Public Law
Pocket Veto – Bill Expires (10 days)
Can be discharged
Veto – Bill Fails
Veto override – 2/3 vote of both houses – Becomes Public Law