How Laws are Made.
If you are familiar with how laws are made, you can skip
Introducing the Proposed Legislation
|One or more members of the Senate or the House of
Representatives must sponsor a piece of proposed legislation.
Each proposal is assigned a number, such as S.1 for a Senate bill, or
H.R.1 for a House bill.
A bill which is not enacted during a given Congress
(two-year period) must be re-introduced and assigned a new number during
the next Congress if the debate is to continue.
Referring it to a committee
|Most bills are automatically referred to a committee with
responsibility for that subject. In committee, a group of legislators
from both parties gather information through hearings and other research.
Then the committee "marks up" (edits) the bill, and votes on whether to
recommend it. Following a positive vote, the committee creates a report
explaining its reasons for supporting the bill.
|Bills are then discussed and a vote is taken.
The Other Chamber
|If the bill passes one chamber, it must go to the other. Usually it keeps the same bill-number, but it may not always. In the other chamber it repeats the same process of being referred to committee, debated, and voted on.
|If both the House of Representatives and the Senate pass a
similar, but not identical bill, a conference committee must
reconcile the differences so that both chambers can approve
the same version of the bill.
|If a bill passes both chambers, it goes to the President for signature or a veto. If the President vetos a bill, both chambers must have a 2/3rds majority in favor of the bill to override the veto. In cases when Congress is not in
session, the President can also "pocket veto" a bill simply by not
Only a small number of laws actually get all the way through the process. From introduction to the final vote may take six years or more.
Laws and Codification
|When a bill becomes law, it is first assigned a number, and printed in the form of "slip law." New laws are also integrated into the US Code,
which is a subject arrangement of existing laws in force.
Often bills leave the executive branch substantial latitude in specifying how their provisions are to be carried out. The executive branch then writes detailed regulations to specify the terms of
compliance. These regulations are published, and must also
Last updated: 7 Jan 2000
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